When one thinks about the Detroit Lions franchise, thoughts often wander to Thanksgiving. It turns out that losing in embarrassing fashion on Thanksgiving, as the Lions did this week, makes it very difficult to keep one's job. The franchise announced three days after their 41-25 loss to the Houston Texans that they had fired general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia.
Everybody saw this coming. For all of Patricia's supposed defensive expertise, the Lions have boasted one of the NFL's worst defenses each year he was head coach. He and Quinn did not bring over any of the "winning ways" that they enjoyed in New England and led to their hiring by Detroit. All in all, Patricia went 13-29-1 as the Lions head coach. He did nothing to change the culture of losing that has permeated this organization for half a century.
And the Lions find themselves back at square one. Again. They seemed like they had a good roster put together under Jim Caldwell, and even made the playoffs in 2016. They lost their wild-card matchup to the Seahawks that year, but it marked only their third postseason appearance in the 21st century. Just getting there was an accomplishment worth celebrating for a franchise quite accustomed to watching football from their couches in January.
Caldwell was canned after failing to make the playoffs again in 2017. In comes Patricia, with Quinn behind him calling the shots personnel-wise. They got demonstrably worse. Patricia feuded with his players and guys like Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs did not have kind words to share on their way out the door. Even more frustrating, Detroit managed to win just enough games to miss out on generational talents like Chase Young in the 2020 NFL Draft or Josh Allen in the 2019 iteration.
What do the Lions do now? Matt Stafford is 32-years-old and will count for at least $24 million against the cap the next two years. The roster, at least, has some talent; Kenny Golladay is a stud and De'Andre Swift looks like their running back of the future. 2020 first-round pick Jeff Okudah has had a snakebitten start to his career but went No. 3 overall for a reason. T.J. Hockenson is not the second coming of Rob Gronkowski, but he's shown flashes of quality play. They aren't completely hopeless.
But they have to nail this next hire to capitalize on any of that talent. Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy seems like a natural first choice. It was surprising when he wasn't hired last offseason and he seems primed to be a hot candidate this offseason. He would likely be able to create a potent offense with the pieces Detroit already has, much less what they might add via draft and free agency this offseason. Plus, the Lions already tried hiring a defensive head coach in Patricia, and it didn't work out so great.
It'll be tough to get worse than Patricia, in all honesty. Not only did the Lions lose a lot of games in very Lions fashion and any supposed strengths under his tutelage were exposed as weaknesses, he was abrasive in press conferences and was reportedly at the center of a lot of interpersonal conflict in the locker room. It's the holy trinity of bad coaching.
Whoever it does end up being, they'll have a lot of work to do. The Lions are adrift. They have an aging quarterback with some talent and a huge contract, some young talent but not nearly enough, and appear a very long way away from any serious playoff contention, much less championship aspirations. This team, this organization needs a complete overhaul. That process will begin now.