The Detroit Lions officially have a new head coach.
As it has long been rumored that they would, the Lions announced on Monday the hiring of former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. The Lions were not allowed to announce the hiring until today because the Patriots were still in the playoffs. The news was delivered via the team's official Twitter account:
The #Lions have hired Matt Patricia as the franchise’s new head coach: https://t.co/Al0meXH4Ur pic.twitter.com/AYa2IYRidT— Detroit Lions (@Lions) February 5, 2018
General manager Bob Quinn, who previously worked with Patricia in New England, released a statement that reads as follows:
"When we launched the search for our next head coach, I wanted to find a leader that could take us to the next level and I am confident we have found that in Matt Patricia. He has been preparing for this opportunity his entire career, and he's ready for the responsibility and its challenges.
"Matt is driven to succeed, has extreme passion for the game and excels in preparation. He embodies the same hard-working, blue-collar attributes that represent our organization and the great City of Detroit."
Patricia started his NFL coaching career with the Patriots back in 2004, when he was hired as a coaching assistant. He worked his way up the ranks over the years, coaching the offensive line (2005), linebackers (2006-10), and safeties (2011) before being named defensive coordinator back in 2012. He held that job for the last six seasons.
As the Lions' press release announce Patricia's hiring noted, the team ranked second in points allowed (19.2), fourth in games allowing 20 points or fewer (53), and second in games allowing 17 points or fewer (47) during Patricia's tenure as defensive coordinator. The team's 157 takeaways since 2012 rank sixth in the NFL.
Patricia's New England defenses were often of the bend-but-don't-break variety, ranking poorly in yards allowed but very well in scoring. The team ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense during all six of his seasons as defensive coordinator despite ranking in the bottom 10 in yards allowed during three of those six campaigns. His defenses did not fare as well in efficiency measures like Football Outsiders' DVOA, with the Pats finishing in the top 10 against the pass once and against the run twice in six years. They never cracked the top 10 in overall defensive DVOA.
The Lions badly need help on the defensive side of the football, and Patricia is considered a smart tactician. He was an aeronautical engineer before getting into coaching, and he has been spoken of in extremely high terms by many people around the league for his capabilities as a manager of people and his organizational capabilities. He's been in the mix for head coaching positions for the last several seasons but ultimately declined to make the leap until now.
Patricia has already made several moves on the coaching staff, letting go of a few assistant coaches. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter is expected to remain with the team, but defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has already departed to take the same job with the Bengals, and highly-regarded quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan was let go as well. It remains to be seen how Patricia will fill out the rest of his staff, but one would imagine we'll get more concrete information on that front in the coming days.
Detroit has nearly $50 million in cap space to work with this offseason, per Spotrac, and has much of its core locked into long-term deals. Pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah, who is coming off a 12-sack season, is a free agent and likely to be Patricia and Quinn's top priority this offseason. The team could use some help both against the run and on the back end, and it will be interesting to watch how the duo attempts to remake the roster in free agency and the draft.