Quinn: New coach Matt Patricia can take Detroit Lions to 'next level'

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

The worst-kept secret in town is finally a done deal: The Detroit Lions announced the hiring of New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as the franchise’s 27th head coach on Monday.

Patricia, 43, will be formally introduced at a press conference on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

“When we launched the search for our next head coach, I wanted to find a leader that could take us to the next level and I am confident we have found that in Matt Patricia,” general manager Bob Quinn said in a statement. “He has been preparing for this opportunity his entire career, and he’s ready for the responsibility and its challenges.

“Matt is driven to succeed, has extreme passion for the game and excels in preparation. He embodies the same hard-working, blue-collar attributes that represent our organization and the great City of Detroit.”

Patricia’s hiring is the culmination of a search to find a replacement for Jim Caldwell, who was fired at end of the season. The Lions interviewed six candidates, including both of the team’s coordinators, before zeroing in on Patricia more than two weeks ago.

The team was prohibited from hiring Patricia until the conclusion of the Patriots’ season.

“On behalf of me and my family, I would like to congratulate and welcome Matt Patricia to the Detroit Lions as our new head coach,” team owner Martha Ford said in a statement. “We are very excited to have Matt, his wife Raina, and their children, Dominic, Dante and Giamina join the Lions Family.

“I also want to commend Bob and Rod for doing such an exemplary job with the search for our new head coach. I was most pleased with how we handled all the interviews and I am confident that we have found the right man to lead our football team.”

After a six-year stretch working as a lower-level assistant in the college ranks, Patricia has spent the past 14 seasons with the Patriots. He’s worked on both sides of the ball under coach Bill Belichick and led the team’s defense the past six years.

Under Patricia, the Patriots averaged fewer than 20 points allowed each of the last four seasons, something no other team in the NFL accomplished during the stretch. This past season, after allowing 128 points in the first four games, the Patricia-led Patriots defense allowed just 168 over the final 12.

During his time with the organization, the team has appeared in 10 AFC championships and six Super Bowls, winning three. He’s twice earned a ring as a coordinator, in 2015 and 2017, coming up short of adding another after a 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII on Sunday.

Prior to starting his coaching career, Patricia played as an offensive lineman for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a small, private school an hour west of New York’s eastern border with Massachusetts.

With an aeronautical engineering degree, he worked two years in the field after graduation, before trying his hand at coaching, reportedly earning $10,000 per year as a defensive line coach at Amherst. Patricia later earned his master’s in education, fitting well with his belief that coaching is just a form of teaching.

Quinn already has a working relationship with Patricia, with a 12-year overlap together in New England. Similar to Patricia, Quinn joined the Patriots after a brief stint as a college graduate assistant and climbed the organization’s ranks, starting as a personnel assistant and working his way up to the team’s director of pro scouting before joining the Lions in 2016.

Leading up the Super Bowl, while Patricia declined to talk specifically about Quinn, he explained the importance he put on personal relationships he’s formed throughout his life.

“For me, it’s all about relationships,” Patricia said. “It’s all about getting to know the people you work with every single day. You spend a lot of time together, probably more than we do with our families, unfortunately.

“That’s one of the reasons I left engineering to get into coach. My dad was a teacher, my mom was a teacher. And when I went to college, I had the same kind of coaches that really helped you develop and grow as a young man. I think that’s really important that we do that. For me, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about really trying to help everybody that I can, reach as many guys as I can, not only to help them as a player, which is first and foremost, but really as a person.”

After two years at Amherst, and three as a graduate assistant working with the offensive line at Syracuse, Patricia won over Belichick in an interview and landed a position in New England, where he’s worked with the offensive line, linebackers and safeties before his promotion to defensive coordinator.

Now, he’ll be charged leading the Lions, a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991, and has never reached a Super Bowl.

“This position comes with great responsibility, and I will commit every ounce of my energy to this football team, starting today,” Patricia said in a statement. “My family is excited to become part of this wonderful city that displays so much passion for their teams.

“I can’t express enough appreciation to the entire New England Patriots franchise, particularly Robert and Jonathan Kraft and their entire family. I will truly cherish these last 14 years as a member of this incredible organization.

“Lastly, I’d like to express my appreciation and thanks to Bill Belichick. He’s been a remarkable mentor to me, not only as a football coach but also as a man and as a friend. I have learned immensely from his detailed leadership approach to the game, which has certainly shaped me into the football coach that I am today. Quite simply, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with, who I believe, is the greatest coach in NFL history.”

Caldwell was 36-28 in four seasons, leading the Lions to two playoff appearances, but zero victories in the postseason. The Lions were 9-7 this past season.