Fixing Lions’ ground game to be ‘collaborative’ effort

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Matt Patricia has already done some heavy lifting on the construction of his coaching staff, but admitted the situation remains a work in progress. One thing the team doesn’t intend to add is a run-game coordinator.

“I don’t think Matt or I are big into titles,” general manager Bob Quinn said. “I think sometimes, when you look at other teams, you see all these titles and there’s reasons why they give those titles, to get guys out of contracts, give them more money and promotions. Matt and my philosophy is everybody will have their jobs to do.

“The running game is going to be a combination of head coach, offensive coordinator, offensive line coach, tight ends coach, running backs coach and maybe, to a small degree, receivers coach. This is going to be a collaborative thing. So I don’t perceive (adding a run-game coordinator).”

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The Lions have struggled to run the ball the better part of two decades, since the retirement of Barry Sanders in 1999. In those 18 years, the team has finished in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards every season and dead last four teams, including two of the past three years.

But Patricia doesn’t believe slapping the title of run-game coordinator on one of his assistant coaches is going to be the solution to longstanding problem.

“Here’s my thing that I learned a long time ago, everybody gets caught up in titles,” Patricia said. “I definitely think it’s a younger-generation thing, too. It’s hard for guys, they all want to say, ‘What’s my title?’ or ‘What am I doing?’

“I can give you a bunch of titles, but if it doesn’t mean anything, what’s the use?” he said. “I was an assistant coach in New England for 14 years. That’s all I was. I had a job, and my job changed every year. The head coach gave me my responsibilities and I did them the best I could. To me, that’s what it’s more about.”

Patricia already has made two key offensive hires who are expected to contribute to an improved ground game, bringing on Jeff Davidson to coach the offensive line and Chris White to oversee the tight ends.

Davidson coached with the Broncos last season. Despite the team’s overall struggles, the team’s rushing attack was 11th in the NFL. And during his five years with the Minnesota Vikings from 2011-15, the team was ranked in the top eight four times and never lower than 14th.