The wait continues. It will for two more weeks.
When the New England Patriots advanced to their third Super Bowl in four seasons by beating Jacksonville 24-20 on Sunday night, it ensured that the Detroit Lions can’t officially hire Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia until after the Super Bowl concludes on Feb. 4.
Patricia has been the Lions’ expected hire for weeks, and earlier this month, ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported that Patricia is likely to be the team’s new head coach when the Patriots' season ends. NFL rules, however, state that teams cannot agree to deals and “no contract shall be executed” or announced until a team is finished playing for the season.
What can happen, though, is this: The Lions can bring Patricia in for a second interview if they choose at some point this week, as there is a two-week break between the conference title games and the Super Bowl.
Detroit initially interviewed six candidates for the job, but Patricia was the clear favorite from the beginning. Patricia and Lions general manager Bob Quinn have a level of familiarity from their time together in New England, and both worked their way up the organization the same way: from starting as low-level staffers to becoming some of Bill Belichick’s most trusted men.
In Patricia’s case, some of that was evident as the seconds ticked down Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Patricia and Belichick embraced. After the game was over and Tom Brady finished his postgame interview with CBS, Patricia found his quarterback and embraced him in a massive bear hug around Brady’s neck caught on television. The defensive coordinator and quarterback then spoke for a few seconds before going on their ways.
They’ll be together for two more weeks now -- at least until after the Super Bowl.
Patricia received a bunch of attention during the CBS broadcast of the AFC title game, with reaction shots after big plays by Jacksonville and coaching between plays while on his headset.
It was Patricia’s defense, too, that played a big role in New England's beating Jacksonville. After allowing four drives of more than three minutes (including two touchdown drives) in the first half against the Jaguars, New England stifled Jacksonville in the second half. In-game adjustments have been one of the things Patricia has done well during his time as a coordinator, and that showed up again against Jacksonville.
The Jaguars were held to two field goals after halftime. Three of the Jaguars' final six drives were three-and-outs. Four resulted in punts. Patricia made smart calls throughout the second half, including bringing pressure when necessary to force a sack on the Jaguars’ final drive.
While that showed up during the game, Patricia is well-known for his preparation. In November, he gave some insight into how he tries to get a team to improve throughout a week and a season.
“When you look at really complex things that you're trying to get better, if you can boil them down to maybe one or two bullet points of like, ‘Hey, if we can just do this and this, then that whole area will improve,'" Patricia said, according to the Patriots’ website. “That's probably the best way for us. I think if we try to just say everything needs to improve, then you're really not going to get anything done. So we look at some real specific situations or areas or calls. It's different every year, what is good and what is not good, so you want to make sure that you're conscious of that, and you're not just following the same script you followed last year, where it's like, 'Hey, at this point last year, we had to really work on this' because it's not the same. So when you look at it, you look at it from that standpoint.
“It certainly starts with me first. There's a lot that I need to get better on and improve, and I tell the guys that. We try to explain that, 'Hey, this is why we do this' or 'This is what we did here' and 'This is where it needs to get better' and then we all hold each other accountable for that. So that's where it starts, and then it goes down into them and what they do, and we try to take a good look at it from not only scheme or individual players, but how we attack maybe the week or a meeting or a certain situation that if there's a better way that we could teach it or get the information out there.”
Patricia will be doing that for the next two weeks in New England and after that, presumably, as a first-time head coach for the Detroit Lions.