Published May 12, 2018
Let’s establish this first.
Nobody is out to “get” Matt Patricia.
Nobody is trying to derail his coaching career. If someone wanted to torpedo his chances of landing the Lions head coaching job or that of any other NFL team, they had their chance during the interviewing process.
Had the Lions been searching for a replacement for Jim Caldwell and the news popped up that Patricia was indicted on sexual assault charges in 1996, then the team would be in a box.
It would have forced the Lions to publicly determine whether the alleged incident was serious enough to eliminate Patricia from consideration. And, frankly, the Lions could have moved on in their search and the court of public opinion would likely have been on their side, though you never get anything close to universal alignment on stuff like this.
They would have been accused of overcompensating. That the alleged incident merited a “no foul, no harm” reaction. But no one could have accused the Lions of being insensitive or somehow downplaying these types of matters, which these days is tantamount to public relations suicide.
But it didn’t go down that way. Patricia wasn’t forthcoming, and now the Lions have not a PR suicide on their hands, but a PR nightmare.
A lose/lose situation?
The Lions are forced now to double down on their support of Patricia, because it’s a dangerous thing to dismiss someone from their job when there was no trial, much less a conviction. But in doing so, the franchise looks foolish. Not because of what Patricia may or may not have done, but because they didn’t find out about it in the vetting process.
In fairness, we can’t think as if the Internet has been around since the dawn of time. There actually was once a day when records were all on paper, or microfilm. And those days weren’t all that long ago.
So even if you want to give the Lions a pass and blame Patricia for not coming forward with this indictment stuff (he should have), it still puts a team that has long suffered from being a national pinata, in a tricky spot.
Patricia, of course, adamantly maintains his innocence. No surprise there. But if he has, as he said the other day, “the truth on his side,” then why didn’t he take Lions GM Bob Quinn, a good friend by the way, aside and say during the interviewing process, “You know, Bob, something happened a while back that I think you should know about, in the interest of transparency.”
Patricia could have put the ball in Quinn and the Lions’ court, trusting that by having the truth on his side, the team brass would at least have had a chance to get together and game plan how they would handle it, presuming the Lions still planned to hire Patricia.
In the NFL, not all the most important huddles take place on the field.
This isn’t a run-of-the-mill job
But Patricia kept his lips zipped, taking the “name, rank and serial number” approach to his interview. They didn’t ask, so why should I tell?
It’s been said elsewhere, and I happen to agree: that narrow-scoped approach might be OK if you’re going for a job in the private sector that lacks public scrutiny, but when you are on the verge of being one of the public faces of an NFL franchise, it’s foolhardy to think it’s an apples to apples comparison.
Do I think the Lions should fire Patricia? Absolutely not. Again, precedence.
But do I think the team should take Patricia behind the woodshed and give him what for? Absolutely yes.
The last thing that any of us as employees strive to do is to make our bosses look bad because of our behavior. Even if you don’t like the bosses. It’s just not good card playing.
So I’m sure that Quinn, team president Rod Wood and owner Martha Ford aren’t thrilled with their new head coach. They may publicly stand behind him, but no doubt that Patricia has gotten dressed down behind closed doors.
Look, it’s not easy to dredge up uncomfortable incidents from the past, whether true or false, and tell a potential future employer about them. But if you have a dismissed case and “truth on your side,” it should cushion the blow.
The Lions would have greatly appreciated it if Patricia would have allowed the team to get ahead of this. Everyone knows that the transgression isn’t what takes people down—it’s their response to it, or lack thereof.
You think Dick Nixon would have lost his White House gig solely based on the break-in of Democratic national headquarters?
Of course not.
Doing the right thing rarely the easiest thing to do
In fairness, how many of us, by show of hands, would have, in Patricia’s position, brought up the 1996 indictment?
I know it’s easy for me to sit here and play, ahem, Monday morning quarterback, and say with smugness that Patricia blew it (he did), but it’s really not second guessing here. It would have been the right thing to do, even if doing the right thing is often the much harder of the options to take. Yet it’s still easy to use 20/20 hindsight in a tsk, tsk way.
If it was always easy to do the right thing, life would be a piece of cake.
The Lions, at least, don’t play a meaningful NFL game for about four months. That’s both a curse and a blessing. It won’t cause a distraction during game planning week, but it also gives folks that much more time to focus on this rather than defensive schemes and what the Lions are going to do about their running game.
The timing, in a way, couldn’t be worse.
Just when fans are basking in the glow of their football team choosing who they believe—and experts believe—is the right man to lead it, here comes this sordid matter, 22 years late to the party. It’s deflating.
And annoying, if you read some of the comments online. Most fans, it appears, want to move past this as soon as possible, as if they were all employees of the Lions’ PR team. Of course they do. And many of them have a good argument to do so.
But it’s not going to go away quickly. In many respects, this has just started.
Most PR nightmares are like bruises. They go away with time. But when they’re fresh, they look nasty.
If you looked at the faces of Quinn, Wood and Mrs. Ford as they entered Patricia’s presser the other day, you’d have thought the new coach was about to announce the names of players he was going to publicly execute.
I wouldn’t expect them to smile and look relaxed and happy, but their collective, sober faces showed a mix of shock and disbelief.
The last thing the Lions expected to have on their hands now is a PR bruise inflicted, albeit indirectly, by their new head coach.
It gives a whole new definition of the term, Same Old Lions, doesn’t it?