Thu, 28 Jan 2021

Mike OHara

Principal owner Sheila Ford Hamp kept her word on setting a standard of expectations for the Detroit Lions in the 2020 season, and she sent a message for the future in her decision Saturday to move on from general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia.

She reached the breaking point with the poor performances in lopsided losses to the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans in the last two games.

With the Lions headed for a third straight last-place finish in the NFC North under the Quinn-Patricia leadership tandem, Hamp had seen enough in another disappointing season.

"Honestly - yes," Hamp said in a Zoom interview Saturday afternoon, about two hours after telling Quinn and Patricia that they'd been let go.

"Ten days ago, we looked like we had a chance to be playoff bound," she said, referring to a win over Washington that made the Lions' record 4-5 going into games with Carolina and Houston.

"Both of those games were extremely disappointing. It just seemed like the path going forward wasn't what we wanted it to be. Yes ... this was a good time to make the change."

There was fair warning, made loud and clear last December in meetings with the Detroit media, that ownership expected to compete for a playoff berth and to play meaningful games in December.

Hamp, who was six months away from succeeding her mother, Martha Firestone Ford, as principal owner, was a vocal presence in that meeting.

By her actions Saturday, Hamp proved that it wasn't idle talk.

She kept her word on expectations - and she has the same standards for whoever takes over as GM and head coach.

"I meant what I said in December," she said. "I still mean it. Things were not going well. It was not what we wanted. We were hoping to be playoff bound.

"Things were just not seeming to go the right way."

Hamp also said in the December media session that Quinn and Patricia would be evaluated separately.

Quinn inherited Jim Caldwell as head coach when he was hired as GM in 2016. The Lions went 9-7 both years and made the playoffs in 2016. Quinn fired Caldwell after the 2017 season, making a statement that "9-7 is not good enough."

He also said that the 9-7 record was on his resume, too.

It seemed like a good fit for the Lions when Patricia was hired in 2018. He and Quinn had a strong relationship from their many years together with the New England Patriots - Quinn working in personnel, Patricia rising in the ranks as an assistant coach until ultimately becoming defensive coordinator under head coach legend Bill Belichick.

But the Lions never could sustain any winning momentum under Patricia. They dropped from 3-3 to a 6-10 finish in 2018; from 3-4-1 to 3-12-1 in 2019 and from 3-3 to their current 4-7 this year.

Game after game in all three seasons, teams would go on long scoring binges against the Lions, with no answer back.

The opening game of the 2020 season was a crushing example of the Lions getting run over. They had a 23-6 lead over the Bears late in the third quarter, only to give up three TD passes to quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the fourth quarter in what became a 27-23 loss.

That set the tone for another season when the Lions could not take advantage of opportunities.

As Hamp said, the last two losses convinced her that it was time to make a change and begin the process of finding a new GM and head coach.

There had been an undercurrent from the start of Patricia's tenure that players were not happy with his hard-driving style. Frankly, the team played at times this year like it was worn out.

Whatever the reason, the bottom line under Patricia - a 13-29-1 won-loss-tied record - warranted making a change. It was just a matter of when.

Hamp's comments Saturday indicated that expectations for a winning 2020 season were founded more on hope than production.

"We had hoped that this year, the third year, things would gel," she said. "Matt's processes and his coaching ability would come together in a good way. It just became clear it wasn't working.

"I think we have a really talented team. I think we should have come together better than we have.

"We just felt that the leadership wasn't getting the job done."

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