At his introductory press conference, new Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia talks about his goals for the Lions and their fan base. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News
Allen Park — After a frustratingly long wait to formally announce the hiring of Matt Patricia, and seeing how patiently following NFL protocol backfired for another franchise, Detroit Lions management would like to see the league adjust its antiquated rules regarding the hiring process.
The NFL tampering policy offers strict guidelines on how teams looking for coaches can interact with candidates from teams still in the playoffs, setting aside narrow timeframes to interview. No one seems to have an issue with that, but the process of making and announcing a hire has drawn consternation.
“Huge distraction, huge frustration, not only from an organizational level, but with all the candidates, the other teams. I think the league has done a poor job on managing this,” Lions general manager Bob Quinn said.
Teams are prohibited from agreeing to contract terms, or even the intent to negotiate a contract, with a potential candidate until their current team has been eliminated from the playoffs. This puts a hiring team looking to add a coach from successful franchises at a disadvantage, delaying the ability to assemble a coaching staff while waiting up to a month to officially make a hire.
And, we saw the worst-case scenario in Indianapolis this week when New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels agreed to become the coach of the Colts after the Super Bowl, but changed his mind hours later, after the team signed contracts with some assistants McDaniels wanted on his staff.
Patricia didn’t get cold feet, and the Lions hope they have their man for many years to come, but after assistant coaches from Super Bowl teams have landed head-coaching jobs three times in the past four years, Lions president Rod Wood would like to see the rule change.
“I understand the rationale about not wanting to disrupt the season of somebody in the playoffs, but I think there’s a way to have both sides be happy — have the coach focused on winning the playoffs and have the other team they’re going to maybe join, prepare for the season and start to build a staff and everything else,” Wood said. “I hope that they revisit that rule. There was some consideration, last year, to do it. If they brought it up again, I’d be in favor of it.”
Quinn echoed those sentiments.
“I would hope it passes this year, because I don’t think any team should have to go through this or what’s going on with (Indianapolis). That’s a really awful situation.”
McDaniels never a candidate
Many observers presumed McDaniels would be a candidate for the Lions’ opening, but the team opted not to interview him. Why did Quinn pass up on meeting with his former New England colleague during the process?
“When I set my initial list, Josh was not on it,” Quinn said. “I know Josh, Josh is a friend of mine, but I knew Matt was a guy that I was very interested in talking to and felt it could work out with him. I was hoping it would work out with him. I didn’t feel right about it at the time. He wasn’t completely off the radar, off the grid, but through the first round of interviews, I had the guys that I wanted to talk to, reevaluate it and go from there.”
The Lions’ initial list was seven candidates. They talked to six — offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Packers linebacker coach Winston Moss, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel and Patricia. The team also planned to interview Carolina defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, but the two sides agreed opted not to sit down when it became clear Patricia was the team’s target.
Along with Shurmur, McDaniels was the only other candidate with head-coaching experience. He struggled after being hired by the Denver Broncos in 2009, straining relationships with a few of the team’s top players, leading to quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall being traded. McDaniels was fired in the middle of his second season, after compiling an 11-17 record.