Lions re-sign S Tavon Wilson; keep open mind on defense as free agency starts

Expect new looks on Matt Patricia’s defense

With free agency “officially” starting on Wednesday at 4 p.m., it could get interesting for the Detroit Lions.

Same general manager in Bob Quinn, but a mostly new coaching staff with new head guy Matt Patricia.

Already some fan angst appeared when the Lions announced Tuesday morning they’ve re-signed safety Tavon Wilson. NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported it’s two years for $7 million. Not exactly breaking the bank.

Already fans on my Twitter feed not happy. They want “some new faces” on defense not the same old, same old. They want Miles Killebrew to have a chance to develop.

Well, guess what? With free agency and the six draft picks, there will be new faces on defense.

Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions

Keep an open mind when it comes to defense under Patricia and new coordinator Paul Pasqualoni. While some pieces are in place, expect competition at others.

Wilson is a good signing. He started nine games in 2017. Late in the season Quandre Diggs was moved from nickel to safety. Patricia is familiar with him because Wilson was originally drafted by the Patriots. But that is not the reason, Patricia wants him on the roster. He wants Wilson because he thinks he can contribute to the defense.

Killebrew will most likely get a chance to prove himself after a season that started hot last year but didn’t end that way for Killebrew.

Who will start at safety this year? Maybe Wilson, maybe Diggs, maybe someone else not on the roster yet. Killebrew a long-shot. Wilson certainly capable to start but if not provides depth and the wisest NFL people will say that you can never have too many defensive backs. They get hurt.
Don’t get me started on the 4-3 or 3-4 front debate.

Hopefully Patricia quashed all of that talk, when he told reporters at the NFL Drafting Combine that defensive fronts are 90 percent sub packages. Patricia called the 3-4/4-3 issue “irrelevant.”

OK, let’s move on.



Detroit Lions designate Ziggy Ansah as franchise player

Can negotiate long-term deal until July 16

In a move that was expected, the Detroit Lions announced Tuesday that they have designated defensive end Ziggy Ansah as their franchise player.

Ansah finished 2017 with a dozen sacks  44 total tackles (39 solo), one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Six of those sacks occurred in the final two games. It was an improvement from the 2016 season when he had two sacks but not quite enough to match his best year when he had 14.5 sacks in 2015.

His 44 career sacks rank fifth all-time in Lions history.

Ansah, 28, was the Lions first-round draft pick (fifth overall) in 2013. It was seen as a risky pick. Ansah’s size and athleticism fit a first-round profile, but he didn’t play football until in college at Brigham Young. He was raw but proved to be a quick learner.

He will be paid $17.5 million for 2018 once he signs his tender, according to Ian Rapoport, NFL Network Insider. Ansah’s agent and the Lions have until July 16 to work out a longer deal.

Ansah’s career totals also include 73 games (71 starts), 207 total tackles (155 solo), 10 forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Lions sign QM Bob Quinn to extension: Five reasons it’s a good move

Quinn has been solid in the draft, free agency

Bob Quinn has earned a contract extension in his first two years as general manager of the Detroit Lions. The team announced the deal today without, of course, sharing many details.

The extension matches the length of the contract of new coach Matt Patricia who was signed this week. At Patricia’s introductory press conference, team president Rod Wood said Patricia’s deal was “long term” but was not specific about the number of years.

With Quinn’s extension the Lions will have organizational stability for the next several years.

Five reasons why it was a good idea to give Quinn an extension:

1. He’s earned it with two solid drafts in his first stint as general manager of an NFL team. His first-round picks — linebacker Jarrad Davis and left tackle Taylor Decker — have proven themselves worthy. Through his drafts the Lions have found starters and depth that had been missing for years. Three of the 2016 draft picks — Decker, Graham Glasgow and Joe Dahl — could be starters on the offensive line in the fall. Defensive end Anthony Zettel was a huge find as a sixth-round pick. Many of the first- and second-year players (Kenny Golladay, Teez Tabor, Jamal Agnew, among others) are just scratching the surface.

2. Quinn has added depth through free agency and nabbed a few notables such as wide receiver Marvin Jones, right guard T.J. Lang, right tackle Rick Wagner and defensive tackle Akeem Spence.

3. Continuity is key to a successful NFL franchise.  That was echoed in team president Rod Wood’s statement: “It is also important for our entire organization to ensure stability as we move forward with Matt as our new head coach working in partnership with Bob. Moreover, I greatly enjoy my relationship and partnership with Bob. We both look forward to a bright future for the Detroit Lions.”

4. Quinn has done a respectable job so far but he needs more time to see this through. Quinn said: “My goals and vision remain unchanged and I will continue to work diligently at improving this team and every facet of the football operation. Coach Patricia and I will always work in close concert on any and all football-related matters. That process is underway as our coaching and player personnel staffs are collectively preparing for the roster building phase of the off-season.”

5. Displaying hard work and passion, Quinn has earned the extension. The Lions are not where they want to be yet, but they appear to be headed in the right direction.

Five reasons the Lions hired Matt Patricia

Process explained at introductory press conference

ALLEN PARK — When the Lions hired Matt Patricia as the new head coach, it had to be a good match both ways.

It certainly helps that Lions general manager Bob Quinn and Patricia worked together for a dozen years with the New England Patriots.

“My meeting with Bob and Rod (Wood) I felt very comfortable, I felt immediately when I walked in the room things just clicked on the same level,’’ Patricia said at his introductory press conference on Wednesday.

“Ideas, philosophies, the way you wanted an organization or a football team to be run — the mentality behind it was similar. I know Bob’s and my working relationship has been outstanding … My comfort level with Bob was huge in all of this,’’ Patricia added.

That comfort level was a huge factor, but it was not the only reason the decision was made. Five reasons Patricia was hired the Lions:

1. Quinn said they set out to find a head coach who had five characteristics: Integrity, leadership, intellect, work ethic and innovativeness. Patricia hit the mark with all five. Quinn characterized it as a “seamless” interview. In fact, Quinn and team president interviewed him twice in Massachusetts — once prior to the playoffs and once during the Super Bowl bye week. Patricia was one of five candidates they interviewed.

2. Patricia and Quinn do not want to recreate the “Patriot Way” in Detroit. “I think it’s hard to categorize ‘a way’ in general. Bob and I have a lot of experience and history together. We believe in a lot of the same things as far as when you look at and evaluate players, how a team should be run, how it should be coached,’’ Patricia said. “There’s a great background we both share. And a common ground as how we both envision a team being run. … When you’ve had success you can start to call it the ‘Lions way.”’

3. Quinn said the interviews validated what he thought of Patricia. “Overall Matt’s answers really  were just aligned with what I believe in and what I really believe will take us to that next level,’’ Quinn said. “Going through the interview process with other candidates, I didn’t know all of those guys personally, I knew a few of them. The 12 years we worked together — a lot of long hours, long drives to look at players, long conversations late at night about players, how would you do this, how did this guy play, can this guy fit in this scheme. … The interview process was really seamless. It was like we were back in his office talking football again.’’

4. Quinn said he didn’t have to sell Patricia on coming to Detroit for his first head coaching job. Quinn said the organization sells itself. “It starts with Mrs. Ford and her family, the support they give us is incredible. When we talk about going into a situation and trying to build a team and trying to build the organization back to where we want it, those are the easy selling points. I didn’t have to sell Matt on much,’’ Quinn said.

5. Their goal is the same. “Matt and I want to win now but we’re going to win the right way. We’re going to build from what we have currently and hopefully improve the roster every year,  every day, every week, every draft, every free agent period til we get where we want to be,’’ Quinn said. “We’re not putting timelines or timetables on when we’re going to win what, but we have great aspirations of what we want to do with this organization.’’

Lions introduce coach Matt Patricia; five things to know from his press conference

It’s his lifelong dream to be an NFL head coach

ALLEN PARK — Matt Patricia was introduced to Detroit as the Lions’ 27th head coach on Wednesday. He  said all of the right things.

It was all good. He’s a tireless worker, he loves the history and passion of Detroit. He’s not looking back at all the Lions’ failures. He is only focused on the future.

Mostly he wants to win.

“My goal is to help this organization, this fan base and this city to make it proud. I will work tirelessly to build a team that everyone around here can be proud of both on and off the field,’’ Patricia said.

The new coach, who spent the last six years as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator, is excited about his first NFL head coaching job.

He’s got his quirks too. After a few questions, he put a pencil behind his ear and said that he felt more comfortable. He seemed at ease under the spotlight, at the podium, answering questions.

Five things to know about Patricia from Wednesday:

1. He worked for Patriots coach Bill Belichick, but he is not Belichick. “He’s one of the most amazing coaches I’ve ever been around, the way he looks at the game, his vision of the game, the way he sees the game move and change before it actually does is unbelievable. There’s only one coach Belichick,’’ Patricia said. “He’s amazing, he’s in New England. I’m Matt Patricia, I’m kind of my own person, my own guy, I’ve got my own style but I certainly will take all the lessons I’ve learned from how to teach and coach, the fundamental beliefs that we had in New England.” He also thanked Belichick: “There are not enough words that I can put together to thank you for everything you have done for my family, my career, for me personally. I appreciate you and appreciate our time together so thank you.’’

2. Jim Bob Cooter will remain as his offensive coordinator. President Rod Wood said the decision was up to Patricia on which coaches remained on staff. Patricia was not forced to keep Cooter. “Obviously (Jim Bob) has done a great job here and what he’s been able to accomplish, both him and (Matthew) Stafford with the offense. He’s worked with a lot of guys I’ve worked with in the past and everyone speaks very highly of,’’ Patricia said. “I have a lot of respect for him because I’ve been on the other side of the ball going against him.’’

3. He’s not laying everything on the table the first day. Probably because there has been no time to make many decisions. Schemes are still up in the air. He would not say if the coordinators will do the play-calling. He will have a hand it in all. “You know the good thing about being a head coach is any time I want to call a play —  offense, defense or special teams I just call it. That will be pretty exciting for me,’’ Patricia said.

4. Patricia said becoming an NFL head coach has been a lifelong dream that started when he was playing electric football with his buddies as a kid. “I knew at a very young age the strategic part of the game was something I loved, I thrived on it,’’ said Patricia who started his coaching career as a grad assistant at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he played on the offensive line and earned a degree in aeronautical engineering.

5. He doesn’t really know the city of Detroit, but knows of it. “I’m very excited to be a part of this historic and passionate city. Your love for sports both professionally and collegiate is second to none and I take that passion seriously,’’ Patricia said. “This is a blue collar, grind-it-out community that thrives on hard work and achieving success through commitment, teamwork and never-give-up attitude we’ll strive to replicate that on the field. I’m truly excited for the Lions’ fan base.’’

Don’t judge Lions coach Matt Patricia on just one game

Several factors played into Patriots loss

It’s crazy to judge new Lions coach Matt Patricia on one game.

Patricia has been the Patriots’ defensive coordinator for six seasons. He’s helped them win three Super Bowls.

The Patriots’ defense was not at its best in the Super Bowl loss to the Eagles. No doubt about it. They gave up 538 yards, 373 of them in the air from Nick Foles.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Remember the Eagles are a very good team and Doug Pederson should have been coach of the year for finding his way to the Super Bowl podium without his starting quarterback, Carson Wentz.

Also, the Patriots defense was without starting cornerback Malcolm Butler. From all reports it was basically a game-time decision so Patricia was not prepared to go without one of his best players. Butler had played in 98 percent of the regular season snaps. Instead they went with Johnson Bademosi who wasn’t even good enough to start on the Lions’ secondary when he was in Detroit in 2016.

The biggest factor though, is that you can’t judge a coach on one game. What if the Patriots had pulled off a comeback win? The stats still would have been there — the Patriots gave up a ton of yardage along with 41 points.

From all accounts, Patricia is smart, dedicated and will give the Lions his all.

It’s just wrong to judge him on one game.

Detroit Lions make it official, name Matt Patricia head coach

Five things to know about former Patriots’ defensive coordinator

It’s been the worst kept secret in the NFL the past two weeks – other than why Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler was benched in the Super Bowl.

Matt Patricia, the Patriots defensive coordinator, was named head coach of the Detroit Lions in an announcement from the team today (Monday). He will be introduced at a press conference at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

“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,’’ general manager Bob Quinn said in a statement. “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.”

Quinn and Patricia worked for the Patriots from 2004 to 2016.

Patricia issued a statement: “This position comes with great responsibility, and I will commit every ounce of my energy to this football team, starting today. My family is excited to become part of this wonderful city that displays so much passion for their teams.

“I can’t express enough appreciation to the entire New England Patriots franchise, particularly Robert and Jonathan Kraft and their entire family. I will truly cherish these last 14 years as a member of this incredible organization.

“Lastly, I’d like to express my appreciation and thanks to Bill Belichick. He’s been a remarkable mentor to me, not only as a football coach but also as a man and as a friend. I have learned immensely from his detailed leadership approach to the game, which has certainly shaped me into the football coach that I am today. Quite simply, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with, who I believe, is the greatest coach in NFL history.

“Now I turn all of my attention to the Lions. I look forward to the next chapter of my career in Detroit.”

Patricia was in big demand and likely would have been hired by another team (perhaps the Giants) if Quinn had not been able to woo him to Detroit.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Here are five things to know about Patricia:

1. The Lions will be his first stint as a head coach at any level so it’s hard to know what to expect. He’s learned much from Bill Belichick, arguably one of the best coaches in any sport. The two have worked together since Patricia was hired in 2004 as an offensive assistant.

2/ He’s smart. He graduated with an aeronautical engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he played center and guard. Degrees are great but successful coaches also know how to motivate. We’ll assume he’s learned that from Belichick and his six seasons as a defensive coordinator.

3. He didn’t coach a great game on Sunday in the Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, giving up 538 net yards and 42 points. Patricia told Boston’s WEEI: “Obviously, I didn’t do a good enough job here with the defense. Look, that is a great offense. They are extremely talented. I have been talking all week how good they are. They played really well and we just didn’t get enough stops in the end. Give them all the credit. They played outstanding.” It’s a standout because it’s the Super Bowl and the most recent game, but Patricia has three Super Bowl rings. However, this past season the Patriots ranked fifth in the NFL in points allowed per game (18.5) en route to a 13-3 record. New England held teams to 20 points or fewer in 11 games last year (2nd in NFL), including 10 games with 17 or fewer. In 2016, the team boasted the top-overall scoring defense in the NFL, allowing only 15.6 points per game.

4. Patricia will be the 27th head coach of the Detroit Lions who have never been to a Super Bowl. Heck as we all know they haven’t won a playoff game since Jan. 5, 1992.

5. He will be the second defensive coordinator hired as a first-time head coach by the Lions in the past nine years. Jim Schwartz became the Lions coach in January 2009, but the circumstances were vastly different. The Lions were coming off a 0-16 season and coaching candidates were not exactly lining up at the door. Schwartz was 42 when he was hired while Patricia is 43. He started the turn-around in culture for the Lions but just wasn’t able to get them to the next level. Patricia inherits a Lions roster that took giant steps under coach Jim Caldwell from 2014-17 but still could not win a playoff game. (Curiously enough, Schwartz is the Eagles’ defensive coordinator and now is a Super Bowl champ.)