Lions mailbag: Matt Patricia's tardiness seems to go against NFL coaching grain
Allen Park — It's Week 17 and the 2018 Detroit Lions season is about to reach its merciful conclusion. That also means this will be our final mailbag of the year. Let's get to your questions.
Do you put any stock in the Lions trade rumors you wrote about?
— ptsawyer (@patricktsawyer)
What Patrick is referencing is a column from ESPN, where a couple of NFL executives anonymously predicted Matthew Stafford would be traded this offseason. It was part of a larger predictions column, an annual list put together by the author.
It's probably a stretch to even call these rumors. We don't know who the executives are, how well they know Matt Patricia and/or Bob Quinn, or if they're purely speculating based on context clues.
As I've stated a number of times, both in this space and via social media, I highly doubt the Lions would entertain parting ways with Stafford this offseason. Even if the team designates the move a post-June 1 transaction, the contract ramifications aren't palatable.
This offseason, the Lions are far more likely to retool the offense around Stafford, starting at offense coordinator. And if that doesn't get the veteran quarterback back on track, what the team does heading into 2020 is a more realistic conversation. That's when the Lions could draft their version of Lamar Jackson, to push and potentially overtake Stafford.
How big of an issue is Patricia’s lack of punctuality? He seems to have a severe problem with discipline, or execution as he would call it.
— Derek Maki (@dwmaki)
OK, this spiraled into something entirely unexpected when I tweeted that Patricia is always late to his scheduled press conferences yesterday. It was an observation more than a complaint, but a relevant observation for a person in a leadership position.
Showing up 10-15 minutes late to a press conference rarely impacts my day. It came up yesterday because Patricia pushed his press conference back a half-hour, then showed up 20-25 minutes later than the new time. Again, big deal, media members are usually already in the building. But on Wednesday, we have a conference call with the opposing coach, and Patricia's tardiness caused a conflict between the two events.
Here's the reality with Patricia. It's beyond lateness with his press conferences. He has struggled with time management throughout his first season in charge. Where Jim Caldwell would have every minute of the day laid out weeks in advance, Patricia often is releasing schedules for the next day the night before, not just for the team, but for the players. And his tardiness to press conferences also carries over to team functions.
Privately, some of these traits have irked some veteran members of the roster.
Take all that how you want. I'm not willing to make the leap that this character flaw played a big role, or any role, in Detroit's 5-10 season to date. But I do find it interesting, because it goes against what I've experienced with other NFL coaches, both the few I've worked with in Detroit and those weekly conference calls. Most are cut from a similar cloth, where punctuality is a defining characteristic, and Patricia bucks that trend.
How do Lions fix OL, besides Lang, who probably gets replaced?
— Joe Sailus (@JoeSailus)
Honestly, I'm not sure you're going to see much more than that this offseason. Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow and Frank Ragnow are all young players with cheap contracts, and Rick Wagner's deal still has $8.7 million in dead money.
The only other possibility is the Lions take another stab at upgrading their interior depth.
Does Justin Herbert's decision to stay in college one more year increase the chances Stafford could be traded to a QB-needy team?
— Mike Popiel (@MichaelPopiel)
— Michael Jackson (@mdjaxon)
Probably not this year, Michael. We're in the process of building a house and the move and home setup is going to put a serious dent in our liquid assets.
Who’s at fault for the offense? Patricia, JBC or Stafford? Stafford hasn’t looked right since Game 1.
— John P (@flycasualjohn)
You never put the blame on a single person with these things. The play-calling has been uninspiring, at many points, Stafford has had some rough patches with his decision-making and accuracy, and it's difficult to defend the personnel the team has been running out on the field in recent weeks, which is on Quinn.
As a journalist what is your ethical obligation to a player or coach regarding the reporting of a newsworthy story? In particular if the subject of the story has asked you not to write about it.
— James C Meyer (@trumanfrancis)
Our obligation is to the facts, not the individual. If we are only willing to write stories the team or individuals would approve then we'd be in public relations. A public figure should never have control about what is written about them, but should always be given multiple chances to comment through the reporting process.
What is your prediction of the top three biggest changes for the offseason including players, coaches, and front office? (Part 2 - What 3 would you do?)
— Kevin Green (@kevingreen007)
It's probably still a little early to say on some of these, but odds are pretty good there will be a new offensive coordinator. And whoever the Lions draft in the first round will be expected to have a major impact, whether it's an edge rusher, cornerback or some other position. The third thing, and maybe this is a little vague, but I'm anticipating a significant overhaul to the roster. I wouldn't be surprised to see half of the 53-man roster to start the 2019 season to be players in their first season with the Lions.
Do you think owners will try and set max percentage of cap for one player in next CBA? Do the players object?
— Mike Pedersen (@Lionhawkeye)
It's a good question, but I'd heard little to nothing on that front. The NFL's salary cap, because so much of the money committed to players isn't guaranteed, has a far more fluid structure than some other pro sports caps, such as the NBA and NHL.
There are more pressing issues to be addressed with this round of collective bargaining, so I'd be surprised if the owners pushed this measure. But the NFLPA should be concerned about the growing pay gap between the league's highest-paid players and its bottom rung and what it's doing to the middle class.
How many offensive starters do you see returning next season?
— Ronald Chase (@CoachChase1)
Eight. Stafford, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, Decker, Ragnow, Glasgow, Wagner and Kerryon Johnson. As noted above, a Lang replacement makes all the sense in the world, and the team needs to find a new tight end and slot receiver.
Do you see the Lions extending Snacks in the offseason even though he is under control? He has made a huge impact and would hate to see him leave in free agency.
— Ryan Patrick (@RyanPat36836482)
Damon Harrison is under team control for two more seasons, so it's a bit premature to be talking extension. If he plays out the contract, he'll be a free agent at 32. Those are dicey years to be talking extension, but if the nose tackle is still dominant, something short-term could and should be considered in 2020.
Always wondered what your favorite hobby is that you don’t get an opportunity to partake in during the season? I personally look forward to golf on Sundays.
— Red Beard (@BatmanDann)
In general, most of life takes a back seat during the season. It's a grind and multiple days each week my kids are gone before I wake up and in bed by the time I get home, plus I'm out of town half the weekends from August through January.
The social life is also largely non-existent during this stretch, as you might imagine.
As for hobbies, biking and golfing are the ones I miss the most in late summer and early fall. With the threat of news breaking at any hour of the day, it's risky to ever be too far away from the laptop.
What is the most likely scenario for Patricia: He’s fired before his contract is up, he finishes his contract and is let go, he receives a contract extension before his deal is up?
— Aaron (@AaronLeif)
There's no way to predict this far into the future. If you're going strictly by the odds, then he's unlikely to finish his initial five-year contract. But for all we know, the Lions could pull off a major turnaround in Patricia's second year, completely shifting the narrative currently surrounding the coach.
I was at the game, I just don’t understand why Zenner came out of the game at all. Are there any stats to support my assumptions?
— forlionsforrest (@forlionsforrest)
Zach Zenner isn't a secret superstar, waiting in the shadows, but there's no denying his overall effectiveness since rejoining the Lions in November. He has just 34 carries, but is averaging a crisp 5.1 yards per attempt. Meanwhile, LeGarrette Blount is churning out a paltry 2.8 yards per pop.
Zenner simply does a better job of getting north and south. Why the Lions aren't leaning more on him down the stretch of this season is beyond me.
Would your job be more enjoyable if the team wasn’t miserable?
— Jake Cullinan (@JustJake981)
Of course. While the job doesn't carry a rooting interest, anyone who believes reporters want to see a team fail don't understand how much easier the job is when a team is successful.
First, fan interest is higher, which means more people care about what you're writing. Second, players and coaches are more relaxed and in a better mood when the team is having on-field success. Who doesn't prefer dealing with happier people in the workplace.
Anyone ever wonder why we don’t have a lion at the main entrance of Ford Field like Comerica Park has a tiger?
— 100%Naija (@PercentNaija)
I can honestly say the thought has never crossed my mind.
Pertaining personnel shuffling, is the scouting department included? Between under performing free agents and middle round draft picks, seems scouting could stand some scrutiny.
— Mike Henderson (@mhenderson442)
The scouting really hasn't been bad. Look at this most recent draft. Kerryon Johnson, Tracy Walker, Da'Shawn Hand and Tyrell Crosby all look like solid additions. Johnson and Hand have had an instant impact, while Walker and Crosby have flashed potential in limited playing time.
And in the previous two years under Quinn, Graham Glasgow, Kenny Golladay, A'Shawn Robinson and Jamal Agnew all came outside the first round and are playing key roles.
As for free agency, the team has done fairly well with their big-ticket signings. Devon Kennard has fit in really well, Marvin Jones was a 1,000-yard receiver a year ago and Wagner and Lang have been adequate on the right side of the line, when healthy.
Could the pro and college scouting be better? Of course. But player acquisition is an inexact science that is going to always have its share of hits and misses. What's interesting is the team's biggest swing-and-miss in recent years, at least to date, is cornerback Teez Tabor. And remember, that's a prospect Quinn gave his personal stamp of approval. The GM noted he spent more time personally scouting Tabor than any other prospect during his career. Tough to put that one on the scouting department.
Why does Luke Willson spell his last name with two Ls?
— Adam Burkitt (@adamburkitt1)
Probably because he's Canadian.
A lot of noise surrounding Patricia. Getting more and more negative. Do you think there is any chance he is “one and done” or it’s just noise and it ain’t happening?
— Shawn (@Spartyshawn)
Almost zero chance.
The post game tape of Stafford after the Vikings game. I've never seen him look so dejected. What is going on in the building? Must be more than apparent on the surface?
— erichipplefan (@spleen95shortbr)
Stafford often looks dejected after a loss. People who believe these athletes don't take losing hard are out of touch with reality. On top of that, the veteran quarterback is hurting. Back injuries are no joke. He dropped something on his way out of his press conference after the game and looked like someone twice his age trying to bend over and pick it up.
There was nothing about his demeanor that was different enough from every other loss that would lead me to believe there's something more behind the scenes.
There have been reports that Patricia is prickly and is always the “smartest” guy in the room. Do you think this could hinder hiring an established OC candidate like Kubiak?
— SandmanLions (@Sandman7773)
Because I only see Patricia in brief bursts throughout the week, and only pick up on snapshots of his attitude behind the scenes in conversations with players, it's not fair for me to broadly assume how he works with his staff behind the scenes. What I do know is the assistant coaches in New England raved about their personal and professional relationship with Patricia.
As I've noted previously, we haven't seen Patricia go outside his personal circle when hiring coaches. A lot of that could have been related to the timing of his hire, after the Super Bowl. But when he fills potential staff openings this offseason, it would be reassuring to see him expand his search to coaches he's not personally connected to, in an effort to find the most-qualified people for the jobs.
Is Kubiak that guy? I'm not sure Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are great fits for a west coast offense, but good coaches find a way to maximize individual talents within their preferred schemes.
What does an offseason look like for a beat writer?
— David Majors (@CallMeDjm)
It's pretty busy, at least until June. The NFL has done an excellent job creating a product that commands year-round attention. After the season, I'll spend a week or two dissecting 2018 and looking forward to 2019, then it's on to the Senior Bowl, Super Bowl, scouting combine, free agency, owners meetings, the draft, OTAs and mandatory minicamp. It just doesn't stop.
The true NFL offseason is mid-June until late July, when training camp starts. During that time, don't call, I'll be biking and golfing.
You probably don’t get this a lot but, is this a rebuild year for the Lions?
— Ryan (@Haggs_88)
I refuse to call what the Lions are doing a rebuild until they make a change at quarterback. Until then, it's a constant retooling.
With Glover Quin's potential retirement/cap casualty or whatever may happen with him, where would he rank on the Lions all time free agency signings list? And who would be the best ever?
— Ken Fletcher (@Kfletch300)
Modern NFL free agency is only 25 years old, so yeah, Quin is right at the top of the list for best signing because it's rare to get 5-6 productive seasons out of an addition.
Others I would put in the conversation are Golden Tate, Stephen Tulloch and Dre Bly.