Lions retaining coach Matt Patricia, but improvement sought

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions are retaining general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia for the 2020 season, owner Martha Ford said Tuesday, giving the two former New England Patriots employees a third year together to try to build their program.

Ford made it clear, though, that she expects improvement next season, which will be Quinn's fifth as general manager and Patricia's third as the team's head coach.

"We expect to be a playoff contender and those are our expectations," Ford said during a meeting with a small group of reporters Tuesday. "Which we've expressed to both Bob and to Matt."

This doesn't mean playoffs or bust next season for Patricia and Quinn, but it's clear there needs to be tangible progress.

Conversations about the job security of Quinn and Patricia increased over the past month, while the Lions have been mired in a seven-game losing streak.

Detroit started the season 2-0-1, followed by close losses to Kansas City and at Green Bay. The Lions' last victory was Oct. 27 over the New York Giants.

The Lions (3-10-1) have suffered a rash of injuries, including to quarterback Matthew Stafford, and have 14 players on injured reserve.

Patricia, on a teleconference with reporters Tuesday afternoon, said "it means the world to me" that he would be returning in 2020.

"I appreciate Mrs. Ford and her family so much and [team president] Rod [Wood] and Bob and everything that we're trying to do here and what we're trying to accomplish, where we're trying to lead this organization," Patricia said. "It's a process that we're trying to go through to get the team to a highly competitive level that can sustain and be consistent and handle the ebbs and flows of an NFL season.

"... It's something that we're trying to lay a foundation for. I think that we've seen some strides that we've made with the team this year. We obviously need to improve and build upon that going forward."

The Lions have struggled since Patricia took over. They went 6-10 in his first season, and this year they're on pace for a potential top-five pick in the draft. It has led to speculation about Patricia and Quinn being fired.

"That would have been the popular choice, the popular decision, and we knew that," Lions vice chairwoman Sheila Ford Hamp said. "But, as I say, we're doing what is right for the organization."

What is right for the organization could be avoiding another rebuild so soon after committing resources to a specific vision laid out by Patricia and Quinn. Since hiring Patricia in February 2018, the Lions have revamped much of their team -- even if Patricia has refused to call it a rebuild.

The Lions have brought players in to fit what Patricia has been looking for, including free agents Trey Flowers and Danny Amendola last offseason.

"This is a process," Patricia said Nov. 25. "I know there's a lot in play here that we're going through, and we're trying to build, and we're trying to do the best we can to improve and get better."

Just 18 players remain on Detroit's roster -- including players on injured reserve -- from coach Jim Caldwell's final team in 2017. Only five -- Darius Slay, Stafford, Don Muhlbach, Matt Prater and Sam Martin -- remain from when Quinn took over in January 2016, replacing Martin Mayhew.

In back-to-back years, close to the trade deadline, Patricia and Quinn traded a key member from the Caldwell-Mayhew era -- Golden Tate in 2018 and Quandre Diggs in October -- for future draft picks.

Patricia, 45, has often spoken about the fight his team has shown throughout the season; the club led at some point in each of the first 12 games.

"It's always hard to judge and say, 'Definitely, this is exactly where we are and where we're going to be,'" Patricia said. "I would say I'm always encouraged by the way that the team right now fights every single week. I'm encouraged by some of the players that I see out there improving and getting better and playing more consistent.

"... So I think those are all things that we look for as signs that we're moving in a good direction from that standpoint of at least trying to improve overall as a team."

At 9-20-1, Patricia's .317 winning percentage is just above that of Darryl Rogers (.310), Rod Marinelli (.208) and Marty Mornhinweg (.156) among full-time Lions head coaches in the modern era. The Lions had finished 9-7 in back-to-back seasons under Caldwell before Patricia was hired.