Phoenix — At the end of his first season as Detroit Lions coach, Matt Patricia committed to a 360-degree evaluation. That is to say he sought to leave no stone unturned while seeking ways to improve his team and his own performance.
When evaluating the job he did, there were things Patricia liked. Asked what he was satisfied with that he could carry into his second season, Patricia highlighted laying the foundation for the team's day-to-day operations.
"There are 32 coaches in this room and everyone kind of has their own style," Patricia said at the league meetings. "That’s OK, because they all work once everybody kind of gets on board. For me, it’s all about scheduling and rhythm. Everybody likes to be in rhythm, everybody likes a schedule that’s concrete. Trying to just establish that was really good. Then, on top of that, being able to flex it and change it because that’s what the week is for us. Each week is different. So it’s about establishing that underlying consistency with the ability to adjust, whether it’s schedule, practice time, travel, whatever it is.
"I think we kind of got that going in the right direction."
As for an area where Patricia felt he needed to significantly improve, he's hoping to make a more personal connection with his players in his second season.
Part of the problem, according to the coach, is the building layout at the team's practice facility in Allen Park. When Patricia was in New England, it was a single-floor setup, which led to coaches and players bumping into each other in the hall more frequently and naturally fostering personal relationships. In Detroit, his office is upstairs, near the back corner of the building, separating him from the players and the locker room, which is centrally-located in on the first floor of the building.
On top of that, Patricia also took a teacher's approach to his first season, which he acknowledges may have hindered his relationship building.
"You guys know that I have parents that are teachers, a lot of first-year teachers say you don’t smile until Thanksgiving," Patricia said. "You don’t let them see you smile. Probably didn’t do enough of that last year. I just think there’s a lot coming at you. Probably the guys on defense saw a little more of me because I was in those rooms a little bit more. Just making sure the team has a good opportunity to get me not so in front of the room all the time.
"It’s just different. When you’re in front of a room, you’re in front of 90 guys, 120 guys, and you’re trying to command a room, teach or present from that aspect of it, that’s going to have one sort of perception. Just kind of that every day interaction in the hallways, in the meeting rooms, things like that, you just want more of that time."
Patricia also noted an eye-opening element to his first year was how much time he needed to commit to every aspect of the job.
"I don’t know if it was necessarily a blind spot or the reality of it, but how much time goes into everything," he said. "Some of the most difficult conversations or things that can kind of throw you off are, ‘Hey, coach, you got a minute?’ And it’s like, ‘Yes, but is this really a minute?’ Because if it’s 20 minutes, I’m in trouble. It’s those situations you’re trying to evaluate. Everyone has something they want to say or something that’s really important, as far as that’s concerned, and you want to answer everybody’s question. You want to balance that. It’s a little bit difficult at times."
Overall, after a crunched first offseason, coming off a Super Bowl appearance with the Patriots and thrust right into building a staff and prepping for the draft and free agency with the Lions, Patricia has felt far more relaxed starting his second year with the franchise.
"I don’t want to say the pace is slower, but it’s obviously very different," he said. "Obviously, a lot of it you can’t get done in one year. It’s been good just to kind of have a plan of attack from the end of the season to now, really as far as what we need to do. ... I think, the flow of things has been a lot better."