Sports

Detroit Lions fire coach Matt Patricia, GM Bob Quinn

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions fired head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn on Saturday after two straight seasons under .500 and a third season where the team was again under .500 at midseason.

Patricia’s record was 13-29-1 since taking over as the Lions coach in 2018. Quinn had been the team’s GM since 2016, and the Lions were 31-43-1 during his tenure.

“It was a hard decision because they are both terrific people and worked very hard and tirelessly for this organization,” owner Sheila Ford Hamp said Saturday. “It just clearly wasn’t working. It wasn’t what we had hoped for when we hired them, and so I don’t know if there was an exact moment.

“It was something that we had been thinking about for several weeks and going back and forth and deciding.”

Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will be the team’s interim head coach.

A combination of front-office executives Kyle O’Brien, Mike Disner, Rob Lohman and Lance Newmark will handle general manager duties for the rest of the season and will report to team president Rod Wood.

Bevell, along with Hamp and Wood, addressed the team and staff in a video call Saturday to discuss the decision. Hamp said some players spoke in the meeting as well.

Hamp said the team’s back-to-back losses to Carolina and Houston, where the team was blown out despite having chances to still be in the playoff hunt, weighed into her final decision to dismiss both Quinn and Patricia.

“Ten days ago we looked like we had a good chance to be playoff-bound, and both of those games were extremely disappointing,” Hamp said. “And just seemed like the path going forward wasn’t what we wanted it to be so, yes, we thought this was a good time to make the change.”

Hamp said she and Wood are going to conduct a comprehensive search for general manager and head-coaching candidates and no decision has been made whether they would have a traditional GM-head coach structure or something different. Wood said “we will follow the Rooney Rule not only in its spirit, but beyond that as we search for our candidates.”

Hamp also said they probably would inquire with the league for guidance, along with other avenues. Wood said the team had not hired a search firm, but Hamp did not rule out that possibility.

When Quinn made the decision to fire former coach Jim Caldwell after the 2017 season following back-to-back 9-7 records and then hired Patricia, one of his former New England Patriots counterparts, it tied the two of them together in success or failure. Soon after Patricia was hired, Quinn was given a matching time-frame contract going through the 2022 season — further putting the two in a similar category.

The team never prospered under Patricia, and it ended up costing both of them their jobs.

In December 2019, when the Lions decided to keep Quinn and Patricia for the 2020 season, then-owner Martha Ford and then-vice chair Sheila Ford Hamp said they expected to be playing meaningful games this December.

Hamp, when she took over ownership of the team in June, said the goals remained the same despite the shift in ownership and the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she wanted to see “major improvement” this season. That, clearly, did not happen. She said Saturday last year was unusual but hoped in Year 3 that “Matt’s process and his coaching ability and everything would come together in a good way.”

That didn’t happen either.

The Lions hired Quinn in January 2016 after firing team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew midway through the 2015 season after the Lions started 1-7. When Quinn was hired, he said he would focus heavily on the depth of the roster and in his first major decisions chose to retain Caldwell and then sign wide receiver Marvin Jones from Cincinnati to help replace Calvin Johnson, who retired two months into Quinn’s tenure.

Jones ended up being one of Quinn’s best signings, putting up 1,011 yards in 2017 and catching 256 passes for 3,821 yards and 32 touchdowns during his first four-plus seasons with the Lions. Holding on to Caldwell seemed to pay dividends too, as Caldwell took Detroit to the playoffs in 2016 and finished 9-7 in 2017.

But Quinn, after Caldwell’s second straight 9-7 season, fired him because he felt Caldwell couldn’t advance the Lions to “beat the really good teams. Our record was above average. We’re 9-7 the last two years, but our record against the better teams in the league has not been that good.”

Detroit, under Patricia, then won 12 games in the next two and a half seasons. The promise of hiring a coach who would get them, as Quinn described, “to the next level, and to me that’s winning championships,” never happened.

Detroit has gone 26 years without a division title, last claiming a crown in 1993, and have not won a playoff game since the 1991 season. It’s something Hamp acknowledged when asked about future hires.

“We can’t hide our past, that’s for sure,” Hamp said. “But I think, I’m very dedicated to turning this ship around and really making a difference and hopefully we won’t have to look back very much, just look forward.”

When Quinn set out to hire Patricia, he called the relationship between the head coach and general manager “the most important relationship in this building,” and said they have to be able communicate with each other about players who do and don’t fit.

Patricia and Quinn had similar visions for players and what Patricia needed to make his scheme successful. That shared vision never coalesced into anything other than inconsistency and on-the-field failure.

Beyond the on-the-field failings, there were off-the-field miscues. Detroit missed a decades-old sexual assault allegation against Patricia during its background check while hiring him. Months after Patricia was hired, it was uncovered by the Detroit News and led to public scrutiny over hiring Patricia before he even coached a game.

Once the games started, it didn’t get much better. The Lions were blown out on Monday Night Football by the New York Jets 48-17 in Patricia’s first game and the franchise won back-to-back games only once during the 2018 season.

During those first two seasons, Quinn also made unpopular moves for the fan base and the locker room, trading away receiver Golden Tate to Philadelphia at the trade deadline in 2018 and safety Quandre Diggs a week before last season’s trade deadline.

Quinn made some savvy moves, including trading a fifth-round pick to the Giants to acquire Damon Harrison and shore up the team’s run defense midway through the 2018 season. He also had success in the third round of the draft, selecting starters Kenny Golladay, Will Harris and Tracy Walker in that round along with Graham Glasgow, who now plays for Denver.

He struggled in the second round, including the drafting of cornerback Teez Tabor in 2017. At the time, Quinn said he scouted Tabor more than any other player in the draft, but Tabor flopped in Detroit and was cut before the 2019 regular season.

Firing Quinn and Patricia leaves Hamp with major hires to make shaping the future direction of the franchise less than six months after taking over the franchise from her mother, Martha Ford.

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