Over the past few days, Matt Patricia interviewed for head coaching jobs with the Cardinals, Giants and Lions.
The best fit? The one that’s offered. Sell high.
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The Patriots have won two Super Bowls in three seasons, they are favorites to get back to another. When will Patricia -- or any Patriots employee -- enjoy higher marketability? He doesn’t need to step as lightly as Josh McDaniels, who is in his second-time around. Take a job, get paid more, figure out how good you are at a wholly different level of responsibility.
Mike Florio reported that the Patriots are “bracing” for Patricia’s departure and the expectation is he’ll go to Detroit.
That’s a great landing spot. There’s a very good quarterback contractually locked up for the long term. It’s not a full-on rebuild -- 9-7 the past two years and 36-28 over the last four seasons. The GM is someone Patricia’s friends with -- former Patriots executive Bob Quinn.
Assuming Patricia gets the job, the next question becomes, “How will he do?”
My only answer would be a shrug. I have no idea what his true voice is. He probably doesn’t either.
The adjustment from being a muzzled underling under a brilliant coach to commanding the room with 53 players AND media, sponsors, team executives and the fanbase ain’t easy. Never mind Bill Belichick famously struggled with it in Cleveland after he was freed from Bill Parcells. Eric Mangini eventually ran aground in New York. McDaniels flamed out in Denver. Charlie Weis was an amalgam of Parcells and Belichick. He brought the Parcells’ bluster and Belichick’s bluntness. But both Notre Dame and Kansas paid him a lot of money to not coach there anymore.
One guy whose voice was unmistakably his own was Bill O’Brien. His style and authenticity at Penn State -- which he had to put on display because of the scandal he inherited -- didn’t feel borrowed.
Being a coach is about preparation, X's and O's, leadership and getting buy-in. The group you need to convince is tiny. And it’s easier for them to believe you’re capable when you have a larger-than-life figure like Belichick looming behind you.
Being a HEAD coach? Way different. It’s corporate. Appearances matter. Sideline comportment matters. The ability to speak candidly matters. And if you’re thinking, “Belichick’s not candid and gets away with it . . . " you’re not appreciating the years it took Belichick to earn the right to be dismissive at the podium.
The seat in 2001 was warm when the Patriots started 0-2 and Drew Bledsoe got his artery sheared. It took Tom Brady to cool it off. (This is a perfect spot for a “People forget that . . . ”).
Jerod Mayo swears by Patricia. So do scores of other players on the Patriots defense, as Mike Giardi’s well-sourced piece from earlier this week showed. Player after player gave testimonials about Patricia the coach and the human.
The players in Detroit will love him too. Until they don’t. Since he can’t be officially unveiled as head coach until after the Patriots season ends, they’ll have plenty of time to consider how Patricia’s hiring will affect them. And then they’ll meet him. And they will process their first impressions. So will the media. Then everyone will compare notes.
If Patricia continues to be the obfuscating, generalizing, waterfall of words he’s been as a coordinator in New England -- “obviously” has long been his favorite on weekly conference calls -- it will be held against him.
If you don’t think presentation matters, consider the guy who just got the toe to possibly clear room for Patricia.
Jim Caldwell looked on the sidelines like he took on the mannequin challenge long before it was a thing and stuck with it long after it died. He committed no crimes against football. And it’s not a stretch to say he’s not working for the Lions anymore because of how he came across.
I have no doubt Patricia can work adroitly in the back-channel, Machiavellian world of being a head coach. None.
But I’m not convinced he’ll be nearly as convincing as a head coach as he’s been as Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator.