A new day sometimes brings a new perspective.
So, in examining the Detroit Lions’ 30-27 victory over Washington 24 hours after the game, here are a few thoughts on what that win means heading into this week’s road game against the Carolina Panthers.
Are Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn safe?
Yes, at least through Thanksgiving and probably longer. No one’s going to get fired no matter what happens in Carolina on Sunday with the team’s annual national showcase game four days later.
In the unlikely scenario the Lions lose the next two games, it still doesn’t make much sense to fire anyone with five games left –— unless a goal is to appease sportswriters and the torch-bearing, angry villagers.
The last time the Lions fired a coach midseason was in 2005, when Steve Mariucci was canned after going 4-7. But the circumstance was much different. “Mooch” had lost the locker room and it was obvious in the Lions’ uninspired play that led to them being outscored 47-14 in his final two losses.
That’s not the case here. The Lions have certainly been outplayed in some losses, but they haven’t appeared to quit. And the decisions are different. Matt Millen fired Mooch, but this firing would be a decision that comes directly from ownership and involves the complication of having to remove Patricia and possibly retaining general manager Bob Quinn.
Let’s not forget the outcome of Mooch’s firing. Yes, the Lions played a little better under interim coach Dick Jauron, but they still went 1-4.
And what was the big benefit of firing Mooch and getting a head start on a coaching search? Yep, you guessed it: Rod Marinelli, the author of the NFL’s first 0-16 season and one of the Lions’ saddest chapters.
Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs!
Patricia was asked Monday if he ever speaks openly to his players about the possibility of the playoffs.
It was a perfectly valid and relevant question. But Patricia would rather go through a simultaneous root canal, colonoscopy and tax audit before he gave a real answer.
“I think for us, we just really focus one week at a time,” he said. “I think that’s all that’s important to us right now is going out and playing well this week, knowing that we’re going to play another tough team. It’s the NFL. Carolina is going to be ready to go.”
He shared some other coach-speak I’ll spare you from. But he ended with this: “For us, we just try to stay within the week and make sure we’re focused on that because I think if you looked outside of that you can just get distracted.”
He’s right. No one needs to tell the players where the Lions are in the standings and what the schedule looks like. Before Monday night’s Vikings-Bears game, the Lions were in ninth place in the NFC playoff standings, with Seattle holding the seventh seed and leaking oil.
Fivethirtyeight.com gives the Lions an 8% chance of making the playoffs and projects them to finish 7-9. The New York Times’ playoff simulator is slightly more generous. It gives the Lions a 9% chance, but that goes up to 15% if they beat the Panthers and jumps to 38% if they win their next three (pretty winnable) games against Carolina, Houston and Chicago.
And that’s why I’m a sports writer, you’re a fan and Patricia is a coach. He can’t afford to let talk about far-off goals. There’s just way too much work to be done each week to start daydreaming about postseason glory.
Master Yoda. Wise, is he
It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of a last-second 59-yard field goal that avoided possible calamity. There was so much hand-wringing in the media and among fans after the win, I can’t imagine the shrieking that would have followed a loss.
But something important got lost in all the emotion of the moment and the hours that followed. And that’s this: The Lions learned from their mistakes and didn’t hurt themselves when it mattered.
They didn’t get caught shorthanded on defense or special teams. Matthew Stafford played much better and didn’t turn the ball over.
And that brings us to one of the key philosophical questions about sports and life: Do you learn more about yourself through failure or success? Patricia was asked a version of this question.
“I would say that for us, we’re always trying to teach; no matter we win, we have a good game or a poor game,” he said. “I think there’s always opportunity for us to teach and coach and try to improve, and the players do a great job of that. So that, I would say, that’s always consistent from that standpoint.
“I think everyone expects to learn things when you don’t play well, but I think there’s a lot that you can learn from when you do play well. Certainly whether it’s plays that were done correctly or plays that were done incorrectly. I would say those are definitely two things that we can always do.”
The answer makes sense in a pragmatic way because coaches think in terms of watching film and emphasizing the good and pointing out the bad.
But in a broader sense, I’m disappointed that Patricia, who is a Star Wars fan, didn’t seize on the chance to quote Yoda: “The greatest teacher, failure is.” I’m convinced that in a parity-driven league like the NFL a lot of games come down to who learns from their mistakes and repeats them less frequently. If you don’t believe me, ask Chase Young or Todd Gurley.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.