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Lions get it sort of right, sort of wrong, in maintaining the status quo

Following the Lions' decision to keep Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn, the ProFootballTalk crew tries to make sense of the situation in Detroit.

The Lions will be keeping coach Matt Patricia and G.M. Bob Quinn for 2020. Which is smart.

The Lions have made it clear that Patricia and Quinn are on the hot seat for 2020. Which is less smart.

Although the expectation to be a playoff contender is reasonable (and, in contrast to teams that pretend the expectation is to win the Super Bowl, honest), the circumstances make it clear that a huge “or else” has attached to coach and G.M. for 2020. Which may not be the best way to ensure a successful 2020.

It’s one thing for Patricia and Quinn to be privately aware of the stakes. Making it public could have consequences; free agents, for example, may be more inclined to sign a multi-year deal with a team where it’s more likely that the contract won’t be ripped up by a new regime after Year One. And fans and media may believe they have more influence than they should, if the Lions fall next December into the fringes of contention, with qualification hinging on running the table and getting help elsewhere.

Indeed, the decision of Sheila Ford Hamp, who has supplanted brother Bill Ford as the presumptive heir to the Ford family stewardship of the Lions, to acknowledge that firing Quinn and Patricia “would have been the popular choice, the popular decision, and we knew that” will encourage fans and media who preferred to popular outcome now to keep yelling for it later.

Regardless of whether it’s known internally or externally that Patricia and Quinn have a contention-or-bust mandate for 2020, it won’t be easy to contend in a division that features a pair of teams with double-digit wins and a Bears team that won 12 in 2018. Beyond the usual six games against division rivals, the Lions will play the four teams of the AFC South, the four teams of the NFC South, and the last-place teams from the NFC East (Washington or the Giants) and the last-place team from the NFC West (the Cardinals).

The specific scheduling of the games could become the death knell in Detroit. If too many “hard” games come early, the Lions may fall into a hole that prompts an early house cleaning. If the Lions get some easy games early and start racking up wins, playoff contention may become a foregone conclusion.

Patricia nevertheless said all the right things on Tuesday about the opportunity to work for the money he was going to be paid in 2020, one way or the other.

“I appreciate Mrs. Ford and her family so much and [team president] Rod [Wood] and Bob and everything that we’re trying to do here and what we’re trying to accomplish, where we’re trying to lead this organization,” Patricia said on a conference call with reporters. “It’s a process that we’re trying to go through to get the team to a highly competitive level that can sustain and be consistent and handle the ebbs and flows of an NFL season. . . . It’s something that we’re trying to lay a foundation for. I think that we’ve seen some strides that we’ve made with the team this year. We obviously need to improve and build upon that going forward.”

Patricia and Quinn are trying to lay the foundation to not be periodic 9-7 playoff contenders but a consistent 10-wins-or-more powerhouse. It’s not easy to do, especially in an organization that has been characterized by dysfunction for much of the last six decades.

On Tuesday, a traditionally dysfunctional organization took a break from doing dysfunctional things by announcing the decision to keep Quinn and Patricia. But the whiff of lingering dysfunction was present, in the communication of the move in a way that will make it harder for Quinn and Patricia to do what they need to do to remain in place for 2021.