The Detroit Patriots: How former New England players can change the Lions’ culture
As of July 2nd, 2020, the Detroit Lions have a mind-boggling amount of former New England Patriot players on their team – 15 to be exact. And that amount increases even more if their head coach (Matt Patricia) and front office (general manager Bob Quinn) are factored into the equation as well.
WR Danny Amendola
OL Caleb Benenoch
OL Russell Bodine
OT Dan Skipper
DT John Atkins
DT Frank Herron
DT Darius Kilgo
DT Danny Shelton
DE Trey Flowers
LB Jamie Collins
LB Christian Sam
CB Justin Coleman
DB Duron Harmon
CB Rashaan Melvin
CB Tavon Wilson
Of this group that has transitioned from wearing red, white, and blue to wearing sky blue, white, and silver, Shelton, Collins, Flowers, and Coleman have become the most important Patriot defectors for the Lions, and also some of the most expensive too.
Flowers came over on a massive free-agent deal, having spent the 2019 season as his first in the Motor City. While their divisional counterparts, the Green Bay Packers, loaded up on defensive line talent as well with their signings of both Preston and Za’Darius Smith for big FA deals, Flowers was the bigger name of the three when free agency commenced.
After just one season on their new teams and in their new homes, it is very easy to tell that the Packers went after the two best options of the bunch, and for less money. While Flowers is a solid defensive end that showed a ton of promise and put up some big numbers that easily helped justify his five-year, $90 million deal, he has graded out as the worse of the three players, albeit in only one year’s time.
When looking at the financials of these three, the Packers signed the Smith Brothers for a combined $36 million guaranteed, while Flowers was $40 million guaranteed just by his lonesome. To earn that kind of guaranteed money upfront, you would think that the on-field results would justify backing up the Brinks truck for a player that, up to that point, had never put on an NFL jersey that was your colors or was adorned with your logo.
Seven sacks, 52 total tackles, and five forced fumbles are nothing to sneeze at for Flowers. Still, seeing as how Za’Darius put up 13.5 sacks, 55 tackles, and one forced fumble and Preston chipped in 12 sacks, 56 tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception, it is very easy to see how the Lions lost this time when looking at defensive line upgrades.
But looking at the entire spectrum of additions, the Lions love their former Patriot players; there is nothing to hide about that. Once Quinn changed job titles (he was the former Director of Pro Scouting in New England) and became the Lions’ GM on Jan. 8, 2016, all bets were off on how much of Detroit would have a New England influence.
But with both former Patriots’ coaches at the helm (Patricia was the Defensive Coordinator with New England before being poached), there were never any thoughts that over 28 percent of the players currently on the Patriots-Lions’ roster would be how their team would look heading into the 2020 NFL season.
Patricia has done practically nothing to improve upon the below-average culture that surrounds the Detroit franchise, adding to the ineptitude that this city continually faces on a yearly basis when it concerns their professional sports teams. And while his 9-22-1 record, including a 3-12-1 record in the 2019 season, says nothing good, apparently he has the trust of upper management and ownership to remain as the coach, at least for the start of his third season.
Ownership of the Detroit Lions just changed hands recently, as incumbent owner and chairman Martha Firestone Ford was replaced by her daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp, at the top of the organizational chart. And while Martha Ford gave her blessing in the hiring of Patricia and was also in favor of keeping Patricia on for his third season, Sheila Ford now has that ability in her hands, providing Patricia with a much shorter leash than he may have had with previous team ownership.
Last spring, Ford Hamp was added to the NFL’s Super Bowl and Major Events advisory committee, which came just around the same time that the announcement was made that the team was going to be going into the 2020 season with the same GM and HC structure as they had had in 2019.
“(Changing coaches) would have been the popular choice, the popular decision, and we knew that,” [Sheila] Ford Hamp said at the time. “But as I say, we’re doing what is right for the organization.”
Regardless of whatever that ‘right for the organization’ portion of the statement means in context to the future of this team, it does point to the fact that Patricia will be at the head of it, leading the team into each game. The team’s background of heavy New England emphasis on personnel is something that should be looked past, as it obviously is a point of contention for both the front office and the coaching staff.
Ever since he was brought on, Patricia has been on rocky slopes, especially since his first season, the team put up six wins, which was three games fewer than the final two years of Jim Caldwell’s tenure had produced. If a new coach is unable to produce even the same results as his/her predecessor, then obviously, the word ‘improvement’ means squat in this context.
The Lions have become the Detroit Patriots of sorts, mixing in a heavy personnel theme of former members of the Patriots with former successful front office and coaching staff members of the ‘hated’ franchise. Both Quinn and Patricia had their fair shares of success while in Foxborough, but the Motor City has offered a bit of a wakeup call in regards to what it takes to field a competitive football team, something that the Lions have always struggled with.
So in short, the plethora of Patriots’ players that have taken over roster spots in Detroit are, in theory, brought in to create a culture shift, one that (hopefully) involves the installation of a hybrid New England theme, one that helped bring countless championships and Super Bowl titles to the team. But that influx of players and staff members has helped actually push this team further and further away from that goal of success, to the point where getting rid of both Patricia and Quinn may be in order if the ‘20 season produces another dud as it has recently.
The thought process is optimistic (of sorts) in how bringing in players from one specific winning culture can help boost a lacking one in another, yet that transition of ideas just has not happened as it was thought to be possible. While the Detroit franchise has the time and personnel to turn it around, it may end up coming at the expense of both its head coach and general manager in the process.