“It’s hard,” Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp said in a video news conference Saturday. “It was a hard decision just because, as I said, they’re both terrific people. They’ve worked very hard and tirelessly for this organization. It clearly wasn’t working. It wasn’t what we had hoped for when we hired them.”
Patricia is the third head coach fired this season, following Bill O’Brien by the Texans and Dan Quinn by the Atlanta Falcons. All three teams also have GM vacancies: O’Brien held that title with the Texans, and the Falcons also ousted their general manager, Thomas Dimitroff.
Patricia is a former Patriots defensive coordinator, and Bob Quinn was a scout and front-office executive in New England. The Lions hired Quinn in January 2016, and Patricia arrived two years later when Quinn tapped into his New England roots to hire Patricia from the staff of Patriots Coach Bill Belichick.
The Lions hired Patricia after Jim Caldwell’s surprising firing, which followed 9-7 seasons in 2016 and 2017. The Lions were dissatisfied with Caldwell’s inability to beat the league’s better teams and advance in the playoffs. The franchise has not won a postseason game since the 1991 season.
But under Patricia, a winning season became a pipe dream, not a disappointment. He followed a 6-10 record in 2018 with a 3-12-1 mark last season. Even with a franchise quarterback in place in Matthew Stafford, the Lions were not progressing. Patricia’s record with the team was 13-29-1.
The Lions’ back-to-back defeats to the Carolina Panthers and Texans prompted the move, Hamp said.
“Ten days ago, we looked like we had a good chance to be playoff-bound,” she said. “Both of those games were extremely disappointing. It just seemed like the path going forward wasn’t what we wanted it to be. So yes, we thought this was a good time to make the change.”
She promised a comprehensive search for candidates for the two jobs.
“Unfortunately we haven’t won enough over the last three seasons,” Hamp said, “and our efforts to find the right leadership for the Lions begin today.”
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will be the Lions’ interim coach, Hamp said.
Hamp said in June that she wanted to “see major improvement” this season. She declined to specify then how many wins would be acceptable or to call it a playoffs-or-else season for Patricia and Quinn. Still, her comments signaled that time was beginning to run short for the leaders of the team’s football operations.
By the end of Thursday’s game, it was clear Patricia probably would not keep his job much longer.
“It’s not good enough,” he said during his postgame video news conference. “And we know that, and we’ve got to go play better. … There’s never an easy fix. It’s never a magic wand. It’s hard work. That’s what it is.”
Patricia declined to say Thursday whether he expected to be coaching the team next week.
“My thoughts are really just with the team here today and what we were trying to do here today,” Patricia said then. “It doesn’t go beyond that. It’s what I focus on. I focus on the team. I focus on those guys that go out on that field, those guys that are in that locker room, and try to give them everything I can to give them a chance to go be successful. That’s the focus. That never changes. It is what it is. … That’s really it.”