February 9th, 2018
From the mountaintop, Lions get
marching orders from new coach
By KEITH GAVE
With an epic parade Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles ended 52 years of futility with their first-ever Super Bowl championship.
So now, the Detroit Lions are on the clock – hoping the guy they introduced to coach their team can lead them to their first title since Dec. 29, 1957, when they beat the Cleveland Brown, 57-14.
Yep, the pressure is already on Matt Patricia. And you know how he responded in his first news conference Wednesday afternoon? He embraced it, saying in so many words: “Bring. It. On.”
Then he explained how he and his team planned to do it, a bearded man in dark suit and tie sounding at times like a man reading from stone tablets at the top of mountain. His words, all, as part of his opening remarks:
We will be organized.
We will be detailed.
We will teach and develop our players and our coaches.
We will be passionate.
We will love and respect the game, and we will be committed to winning.
We will be competitive in all that we do.
We will have a smart, tough, fundamentally sound football team that will play, perform and can execute under pressure.
We will be hardworking.
We will be competitive in all aspects of our planning, preparation and our performance.
We will have a high-character culture in our organization. our players will be positive role models and contributing members of the community.
We will have a blue-collar mentality.
We will work hard as a team to make this city proud.
Damn, put me in coach, I’m ready to play.
With those Patricia commandments now posted, I confess: I vaguely remember that 1957 championship game when the Lions beat the Browns. I remember distinctly the euphoria, the glow around our living room with my father and his brother, my crazy Uncle Harold, whooping it up. I was 7 years old then, hopelessly in love with baseball and the Detroit Tigers of Al Kaline.
That Lions win compelled me to acknowledge there were other sports in this world. And that franchise has been ripping my heart out ever since.
Now, for the first time in several decades – maybe since Joe Schmidt was coaching the team in in the late 1960s when I was in college – am I feeling more than a little optimistic about this team.
Sure, call me out for being a Jim Caldwell apologist. My defense of him, though, was more about the culture he built from the rubble left behind after Jim Schwartz ran this franchise’s reputation into a wood chipper. Caldwell had a team that was easy to root for. He just didn’t win enough.
But I’ve felt my optimism growing since team owner Martha Ford cleaned house and hired competent executives to run the football side of her business. They, in turn, hired Bob Quinn, plucking their general manager out of the New England Patriots’ front office.
When Quinn decided to move past Caldwell, he didn’t have to look far for a successor. He hired the best defensive coordinator in the game, a guy who didn’t mince words on the first day on the job at the club’s Allen Park headquarters.
“To the future of the Detroit Lions, the Lions organization, the players and the fans, I believe that I am a leader. I believe that I am a problem solver. I want to represent the toughness of this city,” Patricia said, stroking the ego of all of us who love to boast about our lunch-bucket work ethic. “I look forward to meeting all of the current, the former, the Lion legends, and learning from all those who have walked these halls before.
“I love the history and the tradition of the game. I’m excited to be a part of that legacy here. I’m very much appreciative, thankful, to be the head coach of the Detroit Lions. But I’m very excited and very much so ready to go.”
Fired up? Good. Now here’s the headline the Lions made this morning, a day after that stirring news conference: Ticket prices are going up – and average of 3.2 percent, the club said.
So, the bandwagon will cost a bit more. Hop on, hang on and, as Patricia said, let’s roll.
Keith Gave’s new book, “The Russian Five, A story of espionage, defection, bribery andcourage,” is available for pre-sale on Amazon.com. Watch this space for local appearances and book-signings.
Follow on twitter @KeithGave