On November 27th, I will turn 30 years old. I was 14 months old the last time the Detroit Lions won a playoff game. There are three things in life you can guarantee: Death, taxes and the Detroit Lions holding a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft. The Lions have made the playoffs only three times since the turn of the century. Since 2010, the Lions hold a 72-87-1 record. We are living in unprecedented times, and while so much has changed one thing remains the same: The Lions are 1-3 and will likely finish last in the NFC North. After Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, head coach Matt Patricia aimed to place blame elsewhere for the team’s lackluster start. When a reporter asked why people should maintain faith in him, he replied, “Certainly when I came to Detroit, there was a lot of work to do.”
The Lions are 10-25-1 under Matt Patricia. He’s been an abject failure, and that goes without saying. It’s downright disingenuous for Patricia to even suggest that he inherited a depleted roster and rebuild. Jim Caldwell coached the Lions from 2014 to 2017. In the 14 years leading up to Caldwell’s era, the Lions had a 69-155 record. They averaged 5 wins a season. In 2008 the Lions won zero games. Jim Caldwell came to the Lions with an impressive resume. In 2009, his Indianapolis Colts went 14-2 and won the AFC Championship. The 2010 Colts returned to the playoffs after winning the AFC South. In 2011, Peyton Manning missed the entire season with a neck injury and the Colts went 2-14. In Caldwell’s first season in Detroit, the Lions went 11-5 and made the playoffs. In 2015, there was some regression and the Lions went 7-9. In 2016, the Lions returned to the playoffs, and in 2017 they went 9-7. Overall, Jim Caldwell had a 36-28 record in Detroit, with a .563 winning percentage, and made the playoffs twice. Caldwell is the most successful Lions coach since 2000. He inherited a mess, and was successful in Detroit.
The Lions fired Jim Caldwell after the 2017 season. GM Bob Quinn said the Lions needed “a change in leadership, a new voice”. He went on to say “Just when you look at our record over the last couple years since I’ve been here, we didn’t beat the really good teams. Our record was above average — 9-7 the last two years — but our record against the better teams in the league have not been that good.” A team that held a .440 win percentage for 20 seasons and won 9 plus games only twice in that span fired it’s most successful coach in 25 years. The Lions decided to hire Bill Belichick assistant Matt Patricia from New England. Patricia was fresh off a Super Bowl loss where his defense gave up 538 yards, 7.6 yards per play, and 41 points to the Philadelphia Eagles. IMPRESSIVE.
No, Jim Caldwell didn’t win a Super Bowl in Detroit. They didn’t win the NFC North, and they didn’t win a playoff game. But they were building. They were stable, and they weren’t an embarrassment. Everyone wants to be New England. Since 2000, the Patriots have had an unprecedented run of consistent championship level success. The Patriots are the standard, but they’re an impossible standard to reach. Owners will prematurely fire coaches, and move on from quarterbacks, because they aren’t replicating the success they see in New England. Here’s the harsh reality: You aren’t hiring the next Bill Belichick, and you likely won’t find the next Tom Brady. They’re special because they’re rare, and in this salary cap era we will never see that type of run again. Appreciate it, but you cannot and will not mirror it. The Lions decided to fire a good coach, in an attempt to recreate “The Patriot Way” in Detroit, and it failed.
Matt Patricia has been awful in Detroit, and had a less impressive resume when he was hired than Caldwell. He didn’t deserve the job, and he should be fired. Would Caldwell still be employed if he had a record of 10-25-1? Let me help you…no.
Matt Patricia’s current employment and remarks on Monday reveal an important truth: Both in the NFL and in society, you’re better off being bad to mediocre and white, than mediocre to good and black. It’s hard to see a scenario where a white coach would be treated like Jim Caldwell, and a black coach be given the opportunity and leash offered to Patricia in Detroit.
Blacks in the work place have to be twice as good, just to have a chance. We have to attend Columbia University, Harvard Law, have an absolutely clean background, and be elected to the U.S. Senate, just to qualify for the same job as as Donald Trump, who is nothing more than a slum-lord turned reality tv star. Black people don’t get to be Matt Patricia, and we don’t get to be Donald Trump (although, would anyone really want to be?).
The NFL does not have a glowing track record when it comes to hiring black head coaches and general managers. They had to institute a rule forcing teams to simply interview at least one minority candidate, tagged the “Rooney Rule”. The “rule” has been trampled on. Teams hold sham interviews with a black assistant coach most likely already on their staff, just to satisfy the “requirement”, before hiring their intended target all along. Anthony Lynn, Brian Flores and Mike Tomlin are the only black head coaches in the NFL. In a league where Adam Gase and freshly fired Bill O’Brien are trading away All-Pro players, Dan Quinn is still blowing leads, and Matt Patricia continues to suck, there are only 3 black head coaches. “Siri, what is white privilege?”
“But Corey, what about qualifications? What if there just aren’t a lot of qualified black coaches in the pipeline?” Heard this before? Well, this pitiful, racist excuse is not relegated to professional sports. According to Reuters, Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf stated in a Zoom meeting that the bank was having trouble reaching diversity goals because there just wasn’t enough qualified black talent. He said, “While it might sound like an excuse, the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of black talent to recruit from.” This is the easy excuse companies give when they hire mediocre whites without even giving black candidates a chance. The NFL doesn’t have this excuse. The best team in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs, have a prolific offense led by Super Bowl MVP, and 2018 league MVP Patrick Mahomes. Because of defensive rules changes, increased scoring, and the evolution of the NFL game into more of a spread college product, owners have been more interested in hiring young offensive coaches (Patricia was a defensive coordinator). Well, each of the last two off seasons, teams have passed over the offensive coordinator of the high powered Kansas Chiefs, Eric Bienemy. Chiefs coach Andy Reid has an impressive coaching tree rivaled only by Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren. Super Bowl winning coaches John Harbaugh, and Doug Pederson were both trained under Reid’s tutelage. Eric Bienemy should be the most sought after coach in the NFL.
If he were white, he would be a Head Coach right now. That’s okay to say. We can’t be afraid to admit that discrimination leaves mediocre whites employed, and qualified blacks hoping for a break.
There will likely be a minimum of 4 head coach openings in the NFL after this season. The Lions job should be one of them. Matt Patricia didn’t inherit a mess from Jim Caldwell, rather he created one. Caldwell built a firm foundation in Detroit. Whoever follows Patricia, better be given the time necessary to actually fix that which was destroyed. Wait, am I talking about the Lions or the United States of America?