There is mounting frustration within the Lions' front office about the team's slow start and propensity to continue to blow big leads, with many in the organization believing a loss to the Jaguars on Sunday will result in a coaching change.
Ownership came close to launching a search for a new coach and general manager at the end of the 2019 season, and sources said the tenor of conversations between coach Matt Patricia and ownership have been tense again this season, with internal talks about how the organization might proceed on an interim basis if Patricia is let go. This tends to be a copycat league when it comes to ownership, and the Falcons and Texans have already got a jump on securing new coaches for 2021 and it would not come as a surprise to many within the Lions organization if the trend continues in Detroit without a quick turnaround.
The Lions are coming off a bye and scheduled to face the struggling Jaguars Sunday; Jacksonville has lost four games in a row and, by any metric, has been among the worst teams in the league the last four weeks, with coach Doug Marrone fighting for his future there as well. Detroit is just 10-25-1 under Patricia -- former coach Jim Caldwell won nine games in his final season there -- and the defense, Patricia's calling card, has been unable to close out games, with the Lions blowing the most leads of 10 points or more in the NFL since the start of the 2018 season.
Some within the Ford family believed a change was required after last season, but the franchise was transitioning ownership from Martha Firestone Ford to Sheila Ford Hamp that offseason in a move long in the works, and Sheila Ford, who formally assumed duties in June, preferred to evaluate Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn in 2020 rather than conduct a search in January prior to altering the hierarchy of the organization. But it was well known by Patricia and his staff that they entered this season on notice, and the troubling losses have continued to mount.
Although it has not been expressly conveyed by ownership, several Lions sources believe Week 6 to be a must-win in order to stave off a coaching change. At 1-3 the Lions are already three games behind the Bears and Packers in the division and have already lost to both teams in dramatic fashion (the Packers blew them out and the Bears scored 21 points in the fourth-quarter with soon-to-be-backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky to pull off the shocking comeback).
"This feels like do or die," one Lions source said.
There has been a dire feeling in that building before, especially after Thanksgiving a year ago when ownership began expressing its concerns to Patricia, sources said, but given the climate around the league with a team firing its coach and general manager each of the last two weeks, and with Caldwell's name creating buzz in league circles as a candidate for the two existing openings, a loss Sunday could come with severe consequences, though some close to the situation believe that the Lions might not dismiss the general manager and the coach at the same time as the Texans and Falcons did.
The Jaguars gutted their roster of expensive veteran talent in the offseason and have lost four straight games by a combined score of 127-82, allowing 30 points or more in each of those defeats.