Rogers: Lions' Matt Patricia makes unintentional case for 'Hard Knocks'
Mobile, Ala. — The Detroit Lions have no interest in being featured on HBO's documentary series "Hard Knocks", which is designed to provide an inside look at one NFL team's training camp each year. The team's brass made that clear last year when they were eligible.
But after Lions coach Matt Patricia agreed to be mic'd up for a Senior Bowl practice this week, he unintentionally made a convincing case why he and his team would make for compelling television.
During Wednesday's practice, ESPN wired up Patricia, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and former University of Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson. Patricia was clearly the highlight, at least the parts that weren't muted by the dump button because of his reliance of words not approved for broadcast television.
First, Patricia's personality plays well.
He joking mocked a group of players with visors on their helmets, asking if they hit up a two-for-one sale at Dick's Sporting Goods. Overseeing a fumble drill, he told one defender the ball should be treated like a baby, the most precious thing you've held in your life.
He also was captured telling a story to Lions general manager Bob Quinn about how he cursed out the stadium staff for not letting him have a sled on the field, immediately after warning the GM he was mic'd up. Patricia also called himself old and overweight when trying to explain how one of the young defensive lineman should be executing a pass-rush move.
Which is a second selling point.
Patricia was routinely hands-on with the players, explaining in great detail the corrections they needed to make with their technique to have more consistent success in different situations.
Fundamentals and technique are the foundation of Patricia's coaching style, but for as much as he talks about them in general terms, we almost never get to see this level of detail from him or his coaching staff. It would provide fans of the team and the program a better feel for the coach's level of expertise.
Back to the fumble drill, Patricia emphasized a city/country analogy with the players, essentially highlighting the importance of falling on the ball when in a crowd, but taking the chance on scooping it up if there's no traffic around.
And during a pass rush drill, Patricia told Syracuse defensive end Alton Robinson, "No one that rushes the passer well uses finesse, it’s all power."
Patricia later clarified that comment to The Detroit News, saying finesse works for pass rushers, but only if it's built on the foundation of power.
As for the cursing, that's hardly unique to Patricia. It comes with the territory in the profession. That obviously doesn't play on ESPN, which is beholden to FCC restrictions, but on HBO there will be no need to mute or bleep the coach's words.
The Lions are one of five teams eligible to be on "Hard Knocks" this year, along with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos. Teams that have qualified for the playoffs in the past two years, have a new head coach or have appeared on the program in the past 10 years are exempt.
There is clear appeal with the Steelers, one of the NFL's most popular teams, and the Cardinals, led by the up-and-coming coach-quarterback tandem of Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray. But the Lions didn't do anything this week to disqualify themselves from the conversation. If anything, Patricia likely enhanced the case.
If last year is an indicator, HBO will announce its selection in June.