MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: Patricia enjoying his whirlwind first weeks on the job

Posted Feb 28, 2018

As a new head coach, Matt Patricia has a greater involvement in many areas, including personnel decisions, hiring assistants and handling unforeseen issues that land on his desk.

NDIANAPOLIS – Matt Patricia’s beard has grown out slightly to become fuller than the trimmed-down version he sported 22 days ago at the press conference where he was introduced as the new head coach of the Detroit Lions.

That was his annual end-of-season trim, not something done for appearances, Patricia said at the time.

Cosmetic changes – in Patricia’s case, facial hair -- rank low on the list of things that have changed his daily schedule in the promotion from defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots to head coach of the Lions.

“It’s kind of a whirlwind right now,” Patricia said Wednesday morning at the NFL’s annual Combine.

“It’s all been unbelievable from the standpoint … everything that you’re involved in and kind of trying to make decisions on, which is great. The big focus is getting through the process.

“Just setting timelines for, ‘OK, we’re working on this this week. Next week we’ve got to move on to that.’ And really putting a schedule together for the short term and long term, looking at the big picture where we want to be, say, in a month or two months, and then where we are and where we want to be in a week.

“So it’s been fun and challenging, all kind of wrapped into one.”

The end product – building a team to compete in 16 regular season games – is what counts. They don’t hang banners and hand out trophies for evaluating personnel and running good meetings.

But those seemingly mundane offseason activities are vital.

Patricia has greater involvement in many areas –  among them personnel decisions on offense, defense and special teams, hiring assistants and handling unforeseen issues and personal matters that land on his desk. Those have to be handled with a personal touch.

“You have to remember that whoever comes through that door, you have to remember that that’s the most important situation to that person, and you need to address it that way,” Patricia said. “You have to make sure that you really are trying to do everything you can to help whatever that situation is.”

Head coaches are one of the faces of any franchise, and that means they get more face time for the public.

One notable change in Patricia’s status and daily schedule was evident at the Combine. Assistant coaches generally do not do interviews. As a head coach, Patricia did two – a 15-minute podium session for a large media contingent, and another walk-and-talk for a dozen or so media members from Detroit and New England.

There was some banter in the walking session. One question was whether he’s ever thrown the red challenge flag.

“Have I thrown the challenge flag?” he repeated, sounding incredulous over suggesting he’d invade Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s domain. “I think if I did that, it would be a very short career in New England.

“I think Bill would be a little bit upset with me.”

Will he throw it right-handed or left-handed?

“I’m a really bad thrower,” Patricia said. “I’m hopefully going to walk next to the guy and drop it on the ground, so I don’t embarrass myself.”

Patricia’s coaching brethren, who’ve made the jump from position coaches and coordinators to the head job, stress the importance of handling responsibilities away from meeting rooms and practice and playing fields.

“If I knew then what I know now,” is how new Giants head coach Pat Shurmur put it Wednesday. 

Shurmur, a career assistant and offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings the last two years, spent two seasons (2011-12) as head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

Adam Gase, a former Lions assistant and head coach of the Dolphins the last two years, stressed the importance of time management.

“You want to be involved in the side of the ball that you’ve been working on for your whole career,” Gase said. “You’re trying to manage your time between offense, defense and special teams. It depends on if you’re calling plays, or calling a defense. It’s going to occupy more of your time.

“You’re more involved in personnel. You’re dealing with a lot of managerial-type decisions. You have to manage your time extremely well. Next thing you know, you’re not hitting the things you should be hitting.”

One date Patricia looks forward to hitting is the first official offseason workout in early April.

This will be Patricia’s first chance to talk to his team in a group setting.

“You can’t wait for that process, right?” Patricia said.

“When you finally get in that room and you’re allowed to talk to the players and start to mold what you’re looking for in your vision, and get their vision back and try to put that all together – as a coach, you know, what’s what you live for.”