3 Coaches the Lions Could Target to Replace Matt Patricia
Detroit general manager Bob Quinn was hired in 2016 to reshape the Lions into a winning franchise.
In his fourth season, the franchise has a combined record of 27-30-1.
Of those 27 wins, head coach Matt Patricia -- Quinn’s sole head-coaching hire -- claims nine of them.
The other 18 are credited to former Detroit head man Jim Caldwell.
The odds of Patricia being fired after this season are slim-to-none, barring a serious plateau to end the season.
All that being said, numbers don’t lie.
Patricia was hired after serving as the longtime defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots -- the league’s most successful organization of the past 20 years.
Despite that, the Lions rank below 25th in total defense, passing defense and rushing defense.
That’s not due to a lack of talent or investments made in the defense by the franchise.
The Lions have three Pro Bowlers on the defensive line in Damon Harrison, Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels.
Combined, they will make $28.93 million against the cap in 2019.
Not to mention, franchise cornerstone Darius Slay is at cornerback, and Quinn’s first draft choice was linebacker Jarrad Davis.
Perhaps firing Patricia would be premature.
However, the case can also be made for being proactive rather than wasting another season of playing in meaningless games in November.
Hypothetically, if Quinn moves on from Patricia -- or if the Ford family moves on from both -- here are three candidates to be Patricia's replacement:
The experienced candidate
Former Green Bay Packers head man Mike McCarthy
Say what you want about McCarthy, but in 13 seasons with Green Bay, he did what no Lions team has ever done: win multiple playoff games en route to a Super Bowl.
McCarthy went 125-77 as Packers head man, including eight winning seasons and trips to the playoffs and six NFC North championships.
He’s the opposite of Patricia: an offensive coach with a wealth of experience as the former head coach of a successful NFL franchise.
Sure, he had the luxury of having future Pro Football Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback in Green Bay.
However, that’s not a crutch.
Instead, that begs the question: what can he do with a healthy Matthew Stafford?
The coordinator candidate
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator
The Lions made a mistake hiring a former coordinator in Patricia to be its present head coach.
But hiring coordinators remains a popular strategy among franchises looking for new head coaches.
It’s worked for Green Bay with Matt LaFleur. It’s worked for Carolina with Ron Rivera.
It hasn’t worked for Cleveland with Freddie Kitchens. It hasn’t worked for Detroit with Patricia.
It’s a gamble, like any other new hire usually is.
However, having been around numerous successful offenses under Andy Reid and helping develop running back Kareem Hunt into a star, Bieniemy will be a head coach soon enough, whether it’s in Detroit or not.
Reid’s head-coaching tree isn’t a bad one to pick from, either.
Former coordinators under the veteran head man include Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson and Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy.
The college hire
Matt Rhule, Baylor head coach
It seemed the entirety of the New York Jets' fan base wanted this guy, instead of current head man Adam Gase.
Slowly but surely, Gase's 2019 campaign is showing why.
Rhule built Temple into a legitimate power in the American Athletic Conference, and he’s done the same with Baylor.
The Bears were in turmoil, following the scandals former head coach Art Briles left behind.
Despite sanctions and revoked scholarships, Rhule has Baylor sitting pretty at 9-1, with two games left on the schedule.
Its only loss came on Saturday against Big 12 power Oklahoma, 34-31.
The program went 1-11 in Rhule’s first year in 2017.
Two years later, it has a chance to finish with the best record in program history.
Despite only one year of NFL coaching experience -- as an assistant OL coach for the New York Giants in 2012, some believe Rhule has the ability to be an exceptional head coach in the league one day.
No better place for this rebuild expert to start his NFL head-coaching career than in Detroit.