SI All Lions Roundtable: Culture Change Underway for Lions
The ending of the Darius Slay saga signaled to many that the culture change in Detroit is fully underway.
It is no secret at this point: Lions management does not want players that are opposed to the regime or those who do not fall in line.
Slay represented everything that general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia find to be unacceptable in their attempt to change the Lions' culture.
Without further ado, here is the SI All Lions crew's attempt to put a bow on the dramatic week that just occurred in Detroit.
1.) Will Matt Patricia be successful in changing the Lions' culture?
John Maakaron: It's obvious now. Matt Patricia wants players that will fall in line. On one hand, can you blame him? What have the Lions really won? I have been on record for several years that I would be okay with 53 new players. I don't have much loyalty to a roster that has won nothing and which has set the standard for losing. Can bringing in a plethora of players from the Patriots work? They sure are trying! I think the 2020 roster will be much more supportive of the Patricia regime. However, I am skeptical that the losing culture will change that much.
Logan Lamorandier: No, he will run out of time before he can.
Vito Chirco: I don't think so. He's trying far too hard to be something -- or better put, someone he's not. And that someone is New England Patriots head man Bill Belichick. He's tried to instill the "Belichickian" way without possessing the cache of the "hooded master" -- a man that has won six Super Bowls.
It just hasn't worked for Patricia so far, and the team's performance on the field hasn't helped out his case. He's won a total of nine games through two seasons. And while 2020 should be better, it's going to be tough for him to win enough games -- even just in the NFC North -- to warrant him being brought back for a fourth season.
2.) What is the ideal culture that a Lions football team should have?
Maakaron: I don't mind players that speak out and have personality. It makes my job that much easier and more enjoyable -- especially if the team has a losing record. I would like the Lions to be a hard-nosed, balanced football team that doesn't shoot themselves in the foot. Playing an exciting brand of football is a bonus. One thing for sure I don't want is whatever that defense was in 2019. A defense should be attacking and aggressive, not soft and passive. The ideal culture would be a blend of talented high-end players and veterans that make winning plays on Sundays.
Lamorandier: A winning culture, however it needs to happen.
Chirco: I think the opposite of the one that Matt Patricia wants to implement. I don't believe that everyone needs to act a certain way in order to develop a winning product on and off the field. And when you try to make people become something they're not, the results are largely unsuccessful. I think Patricia's been learning the hard way with that.
I'm of the mindset that as long as a player is performing and is not a malcontent inside the locker room, there's no need to bother him and to make him change his ways. Let the player continue to do what has made him successful.
3.) Do you think Patricia tested Slay to see if he was mentally tough?
Maakaron: Absolutely! The more I think about it, the more I believe this was purposely done to determine if Slay was a player the organization wanted to invest in. Patricia isn't oblivious to the ways of the modern athlete. The fascinating aspect is that he doesn't care. He truly believes in the Belichick model of conducting business and isn't wavering. I do hope it works out, because I want my football coach to be a "S.O.B." But, I'm not certain Patricia will get that much time. I keep seeing this as the Belichick in Cleveland scenario. Patricia gets experience in Detroit, but will find success elsewhere.
Lamorandier: No, I think it's just Patricia's personality. There are plenty of other ways to test mental fortitude throughout the football season.
Chirco: I think Patricia did. And it failed in epic fashion. It caused Slay to distance himself from the culture that Patricia has tried to implement in Motown. And as time wore on, Slay increasingly wanted out. A divorce between Slay and the Lions was inevitable, and it led to the trade of Slay to the Eagles this past Thursday.
4.) Is Slay soft?
Maakaron: I don't think Slay is soft. I just think he overreacted to the comments made by Patricia in year one. If you are Slay, you have to try to understand what the coach is actually trying to do. Even if you were offended, use it as motivation to prove him wrong. Winning football does not consist of players getting offended at what a tough-nosed coach is screaming about. It's about understanding the message and trying to get better than the next guy. If Slay was the ultimate competitor, he would have recognized this easily. Slay is guilty of being too emotional for his own good.
Lamorandier: Depends on who you compare him to. In general, I would say no.
Chirco: I agree with John, as I don't think Slay is soft, either. Rather, I think he never meshed with Patricia -- dating back to his run-in with Patricia in 2018 -- and the two never mended the fences. Patricia refused to back off from implementing his culture inside the locker room, and Slay was never going to "buy in."
It led to irreconcilable differences, and the inevitable departure of Slay this offseason.
5.) What one change must Patricia make to become a better coach?
Maakaron: The one change he must make is adaptability. He must improve upon tailoring weekly schemes to highlight the strengths of the roster. Everybody knew that Vikings passer Kirk Cousins struggled when facing pressure. Yet, Cousins was able to survey the field and make plays in his first meeting with Detroit in 2019. Even Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky played his best two games against the Lions this past season. What more really needs to be said!
Lamorandier: Needs to adapt better and be more flexible.
Chirco: He must become more open to allowing players to be themselves. He shouldn't be forcing guys to change their ways in order to mesh with the kind of program that he wants to build in Detroit. And as long as he tries to produce the so-called "Patriot Way" in the Motor City, he will continue to fail. It's time for him to adjust and adapt his ways. In my opinion, it's the only choice he has to survive past a third season with the Lions.