ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions fired Jim Caldwell nearly a year ago to reach another level.
So far at least, they have gone in the wrong direction.
The Lions plummeted to 6-10 and last place in the NFC North in Sherrill native Matt Patricia’s first season as head coach, their worst year since losing 12 games in 2012.
“We all have to do better and it starts with me,” Patricia said Monday.
Caldwell was Detroit’s most successful coach in the Super Bowl era, averaging nine wins over four seasons and reaching the playoffs twice. That wasn’t good enough for general manager Bob Quinn, who made the move to cut him loose.
The former New England executive chose to reunite with Patricia, who was the Patriots’ defensive coordinator, and the leader of the front office wasn’t available for interviews all season to assess the way the shaky season was going.
Team owner Martha Firestone Ford, who also is rarely available to the media, did briefly address the media Sunday.
“We finished in a good spot, in a good way,” Ford told reporters at Green Bay.
The Lions closed the season with a 31-0 win against the Packers after losing seven of nine, a slump that knocked them out of contention in the NFC North to having the No. 8 pick overall in the NFL draft . “We’re all very disappointed in the way the season ended,” Patricia acknowledged. “We had high expectations and we’ll continue those high expectations. The bar is high for a reason.”
Detroit got off to a rough start, getting routed by the New York Jets at home and losing at San Francisco, before bouncing back with a 26-10 win over New England and reaching .500 in late October.
The Lions seemed to make a shrewd move in October, acquiring run-stuffing defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison from the New York Giants for a fifth-round pick.
But just when it appeared the Lions may be playing for something this season, they made a move less than a week later that sent signals the future was more important.
Detroit dealt receiver Golden Tate to Philadelphia for a third-round pick and never recovered from the blow on the field or in the locker room. “Players took it hard,” rookie running back Kerryon Johnson recalled.
It didn’t help that receiver Marvin Jones and Johnson had season-ending injuries soon after Tate was traded.
The Lions’ short-handed offense struggled down the stretch of the season, other than in Week 17 against Green Bay. Matthew Stafford was criticized perhaps more than he has been in his professional career at least in part because the 10th-year quarterback was in the first season of a $135 million, five-year contract. Stafford threw for less than 4,000 yards for the first time in eight years and his 21 touchdown passes were his fewest since 2012.
Patricia did not want to commit to making any changes on his coaching staff or the roster, but did attempt to shut down speculation the team may try to trade Stafford.
“He’s our quarterback,” Patricia said.
Stafford, who didn’t talk to reporters in the locker room Monday, has made it clear he hopes to stay with the franchise that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009.
“There’s something special about a guy getting the chance to play his entire career in one place,” Stafford said last week. “Not many guys get to do that these days. I would love to be one of those guys.”
Assuming Stafford returns, he may be working with a new offensive coordinator for the first time in three-plus seasons. Patricia retained Jim Bob Cooter from Caldwell’s staff, but he may want to bring in his own offensive coordinator for his second year.
“We’ll definitely evaluate everybody,” Patricia said.
The Lions may decide to let go of Glover Quin, who turns 33 in January, or the veteran safety may decide to simply retire after contemplating doing that previously.
“I’m not even thinking about that right now,” Quin insisted.