Lions never considered dismissing Patricia after assault allegations surfaced

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Matt Patricia

Allen Park -- Detroit Lions management found out about 22-year-old sexual assault allegations against Matt Patricia a couple days before the information was made public in May, and never gave serious consideration to parting ways with the first-year coach. 

"After our conversations with Matt and (owner) Mrs. (Martha Firestone) Ford and (team president) Rod (Wood), there was not," general manager Bob Quinn said, answering questions about the situation for the first time on Friday. 

"We did extensive research," Quinn said. "I’m not getting into what we did, but we did extensive research externally as well, and with our conversations with Matt. So, that’s where I’m going to leave it, I think I’ve covered that on the statement."

In May, The Detroit News reported that Patricia was arrested and indicted by a grand jury on one count of aggravated sexual assault for an incident that occurred in 1996 in South Padre Island, Texas. The case was ultimately dropped when the alleged victim declined to testify in a trial. 

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Quinn, Ford and Wood released a joint statement shortly after the story published. 

"As an organization, The Detroit Lions take allegations regarding sexual assault or harassment seriously," the statement read. "Coach Patricia was the subject of a standard pre-employment background check which did not disclose this issue. We have spoken to Coach Patricia about this at length as well as the attorney who represented him at the time. Based upon everything we have learned, we believe and have accepted Coach Patricia's explanation and we will continue to support him. We will continue to work with our players and the NFL to further awareness of and protections for those individuals who are the victims of sexual assault or violence."

Quinn declined to speculate on whether knowing about the allegations prior to hiring Patricia would have impacted the organization's decision. 

As for not discovering the arrest through the team's own background checks, Quinn said nothing came up through the standard process. 

"We do our standard – for a high-level position, we do an extensive background check on everybody, and nothing came up, so that’s kind of how we go through those processes," Quinn said. "I’m not paid to do extensive background checks. I’m here to select a head coach, and I’m very comfortable with Matt Patricia as our head coach."

Patricia would hold his own press conference in May to address the allegations, which he vehemently denied. 

"I'm here to defend my honor and clear my name," Patricia said at the time. "Twenty-two years ago, I was falsely accused of something very serious -- very serious allegations. There were claims made about me that never happened. I'm thankful, on one level, that the process worked and the case was dismissed. At the same time, I was never given the opportunity to defend myself or to allow push back and the truth to clear my name."

When asked questions about the night in question, and given a chance to defend himself and offer clarity, Patricia offered no details, often just restating his innocence. 

Patricia would go on to lead the Lions to a 6-10 record in his first season as coach. Quinn believes the report of the assault didn't have a negative impact on the players.

"I don’t think it had any effect on the locker room," Quinn said. "I think our players were very supportive of Matt after that happened. Quickly, we were into OTAs and we kind of moved on to football. So, I don’t think it did."