Even a literal rocket scientist—Matt Patricia majored in aeronautical engineering at his alma mater, RPI—couldn’t save the sinking ship known as the Detroit Lions. If anything, he made matters worse for the Lions who, when Patricia arrived in 2018, were coming off a modest 9-7 season under Jim Caldwell.
Despite having the Bill Belichick stamp of approval, Patricia was never cut out for an NFL head coaching job, ruffling feathers by making his team practice outdoors in the dead of winter (Detroit plays in a dome), dismissing a reporter on the basis of his posture and needing three months to figure out D’Andre Swift is better than the ghost of Adrian Peterson (even Peterson himself acknowledged Swift should have been starting all along).
Maybe the Lions should have seen the writing on the wall when New England allowed 41 points and over 500 yards of offense to Nick Foles, of all people, in Patricia’s final game as defensive coordinator. Unfortunately, this is no new trend. Seeing Foxboro alums struggle in their post-Patriots endeavors has become all too common with Patricia, Romeo Crennel, Bill O’Brien, Jim Schwartz, Josh McDaniels (who wisely returned to New England after flopping in his two-year stint as Broncos head coach) and Eric Mangini all flaming out in spectacular fashion. Some have gone on to be successful coordinators elsewhere (Crennel and Schwartz would fall under that umbrella), though by and large, coaches who got their start under Belichick haven’t measured up, as evidenced by this jarring stat from ESPN.
You can’t laugh that off as a small sample size, either. That’s 505 GAMES of hard evidence, which is more than enough to support the hypothesis Belichick’s coaching tree is cursed. The jury is out on Joe Judge (though his early Giants tenure has been turbulent to say the least) while Mike Vrabel and Kliff Kingsbury, who both suited up for the Patriots during their playing careers, don’t technically qualify as offshoots of the Belichick tree. Brian Flores has so far been the exception, though even he caught flak for benching Tua Tagovailoa in last week’s loss to Denver, an uncharacteristic panic move by the Dolphins head coach.
After seeing Patricia sabotage his future head coaching prospects with a dismal turn at the Lions’ helm, has the league’s long-running obsession with Belichick protégés finally run its course? Let’s hope so.