The worst era of Lions football is, thankfully, coming to a close


There's a library of sad stories to describe Matt Patricia's Lions, and one image that captures it best: an opposing receiver running open over the middle and a bunch of big linebackers failing to catch up.

So it was fitting that we saw that over and over — and over, and over, and over — on Thanksgiving as a 3-7 team throttled Detroit for the second week in a row. Thankfully, these won’t be Matt Patricia’s Lions much longer.

Whether Shiela Ford Hamp pulls the plug Friday or after the season, this thing is over. It’s done. One of the best eras of Lions football gave way to one of the worst, which is really saying something when you ponder the history of this franchise.

But that’s what Patricia and Bob Quinn have managed to do. And do not absolve Quinn of this crime. This is his team as much as Patricia’s, his draft picks, his free agents, his disturbing lack of depth. In three years, Patricia and Quinn have wiped out the progress of the previous regime and created a heap of problems for the next one.

They were supposed to be the perfect partnership, a head coach and a general manager who thought the game the same way. Who liked the same kind of players and valued the same kind of culture. Which is exactly how they ended up spending a second-round pick on a linebacker no one had heard of and investing $45 million in an offensive lineman … no one had heard of. Just to name a couple.

On second thought, this wasn’t one of the worst eras of Lions football. This was the flat-out worst, a painful tailspin back to ground zero. There was legitimate hope for this franchise in 2018 and all that’s left now is humiliation. It will end how it began, with an embarrassing loss on national TV: 48-17 to the Jets on Monday Night Football, 41-25 to the Texans in Detroit’s biggest game of the year.

“It's not good enough, we know that. We have to go play better," Patricia said Thursday, and he shouldn't get another chance to say it again.

Detroit's only path to December relevance, that infamous mandate by ownership, was this portion of the schedule. It started last month with back-to-back wins over the Jags and Falcons. It ends five games later with back-to-back losses to the Panthers and the Texans and a record of 3-4. Patricia was brought here to beat the good teams, which is not the same thing as losing to the bad ones.

Detroit was undermanned on Thursday, it’s true. And it’s true that games like these expose Patricia and Quinn more than ever. They wanted to build a team that was deep and adaptable, capable of winning with whatever it had. They wanted to build the Patriots. So they tore down the Lions and built the Patricia’s.

The Patricia’s are now 13-29-1. The Lions under Jim Caldwell were 36-28 — and 3-1 on Thanksgiving. 0-3 for the Patricia’s.

It was never the wrong decision to move on from Caldwell. He had taken the Lions as far as he could. If you want Patricia fired today, before he sits down for Thanksgiving dinner, dammit, you probably wanted Caldwell fired the moment the 2017 season came to a close. Let’s not pretend that team was headed somewhere it wasn’t.

There’s no pretending for this team. The Lions are bad, and Patricia and Quinn are to blame. Ownership brought them back for one more try, hoping for a different outcome than the one they were probably expecting. In some ways, you can understand the decision. They invested so much in this regime they had to see it through.

Surely, by now, they've seen enough.