DETROIT, MICH. - Matt Patricia may be the only one who knows for sure where Matt Patricia wants to coach in 2018.
But with the Detroit Lions’ coaching search still in limbo as it approaches its third week, keep this very important fact in mind: Bob Quinn could have moved on to the candidate everyone believes is his second choice by now, Mike Vrabel, if he knew Patricia wasn’t coming to Detroit.
The fact that Quinn hasn’t is at a minimum enlightening and perhaps much more.
Patricia is Quinn’s first choice to replace Jim Caldwell as Lions coach, and for good reason.
The two spent 12 seasons working together in New England, Patricia has earned rave reviews for his work ethic and ability to connect with players, and he’s respected enough that at least one other team — the New York Giants — reportedly wants to hire him as head coach.
Various reports this week had Patricia Big Apple-bound as he awaited a call by the Giants’ decision makers for a job he supposedly prefers. Through it all, Quinn has kept silent in his words and actions.
The Lions haven’t interviewed anyone since they met with Patricia a week ago Friday, and they haven’t had any of their other candidates in for a second interview even as Vrabel has emerged as one of two favorites for the Indianapolis Colts job.
It bears repeating that Quinn, who's been in the Lions' Allen Park offices but hasn't informed some of his top lieutenants where the coaching search stands, has a close relationship with Patricia from their time together in New England.
The coaches work in a different part of the building than the front office staff in Foxboro, but former Patriots executive Floyd Reese told me this week “there was no doubt that” Quinn and Patricia “had a good relationship” inside the building.
“When I was there, they had the group upstairs, which were the personnel upstairs, and then the coaching and players were downstairs so you’re separated that way,” Reese said. “But I mean, whenever you get together to talk about defensive players or linebackers or whatever it may be, they had a good relationship."
Whatever the extent of their relationship, and others have suggested their friendship extended off the field, it’s hard to believe that Quinn doesn’t know where Patricia stands with a choice he may or may not have to make.
NFL teams can’t officially agree to contracts with coaches still in the playoffs, and Patricia isn’t eligible for a second interview with any team until after the Patriots are eliminated from the postseason or the week after the conference championships, whichever comes first.
But if Quinn didn’t cover Patricia’s plans with the Lions' job, and if he hasn’t been in regular backchannel communication about where things stand now, it’s a dereliction of duty. And Quinn is far too smart for that.
Maybe Patricia truly is weighing a decision on which team he wants to coach, and it’s certainly possible that he put that choice off to focus on the Patriots’ playoff game Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans.
The decision, objectively, isn’t an easy one.
In Detroit, Patricia would inherit the better quarterback, in his prime, with a general manager he knows and trusts. He has patient ownership that doesn’t meddle in football decisions, defensive personnel he can tweak to his liking and a scouting staff he’ll speak the same language with.
New York is home — he grew up four hours north of the city — and the Giants’ organization is one of the most storied in the NFL. The Giants, despite their 3-13 season, have solid personnel on defense, one of the game’s best wide receivers in Odell Beckham (though his contract situation and side acts could complicate matters) and the No. 2 pick in the draft to get a quarterback.
If Patricia’s wife, who has family in the Boston area, prefers to stay out east, there’s nothing the Lions really can do.
But the fact that the Lions have done exactly nothing so far can't be overlooked, either.
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