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O'HARA: Lions bringing Quinn & Patricia back for 2020 season

Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia are being brought back for the 2020 season, and with a mandate for better results after two losing seasons.

The decision to retain both was announced Tuesday to a select group of media members who cover the Lions regularly.

Franchise Owner and chairman Martha Firestone Ford, her daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp and team President Rod Wood spoke about the decision and other plans on a background basis.

There was an expressed expectation that the building program undertaken by Quinn and Patricia as a GM-coach tandem the last two years must lead to results on the field.

"We expect to be a playoff contender," Mrs. Ford said. "That means playing meaningful games in December."

That has not been the case the last two seasons with Patricia as head coach. The Lions were 6-10 in 2018 and are currently 3-10-1 with two games left – Sunday's road game against the Denver Broncos and the season finale against the Packers at Ford Field.

The Lions will have an opportunity to add quality players to the roster in the 2020 offseason. They will have a high draft pick – perhaps in the top five or higher – and are in good shape under the salary cap to go after a premium free agent. That could be a pass rusher, or a dynamic offensive player.

Quinn took over as GM in 2016, with Jim Caldwell the head coach for the last two seasons of his four-year tenure with the Lions. The Lions had been 11-5 and 7-9 in Caldwell's first two seasons, and 9-7 both years with one playoff appearance as a wild card with Quinn as GM.

Patricia was hired as head coach on Feb. 5, 2018, after 14 seasons with the Patriots, primarily as a defensive assistant. Quinn had a long stint in the Patriots' personnel department before coming to Detroit and had a close relationship with Patricia.

Sheila Ford Hamp said the decision to bring Quinn and Patricia back was not an easy one to make. There has been rampant speculation in recent weeks about Patricia's job security, and also about Quinn's to a lesser extent.

There have been some positive developments in this season – the fact that the team had the lead in the first 12 games being one of them – but they have been rightfully overshadowed by the win-loss record.

Among other things made clear in the meeting with the Fords and Wood were an acknowledgement of the negative impact roster-wide injuries have made on the team, the inability to hold leads and the expectation that Patricia will make changes in his staff of assistants.

It also was clear that although the decision was made this time to bring both Quinn and Patricia back, they will be evaluated separately in the future.

There was also an acknowledgement that the won-loss record speaks for itself and is not nearly what was expected or wanted.

The 2019 season has been a disappointment by any measure. The bottom fell out after the Lions opened the season with a tie and two wins that left them in first place in the NFC North.

The Lions have won only one game since that start – a 31-26 victory over the New York Giants – and they have a seven-game losing streak heading into Sunday's road game against the Denver Broncos.

Making the decision now gives Patricia, in particular, a chance to jump start preparations for the 2020 season, if he chooses to do so with two meaningless games left in the 2019 regular season.

While the makeup of the roster is Quinn's domain – with consultation and input from Patricia – the head coach has critical decisions to make regarding his assistant coaches.

Darrell Bevell has performed as well as could be expected in his first season as offensive coordinator, but the defense has been a major disappointment in Paul Pasqualoni's second season as coordinator.

The defense regressed after a strong finish in 2018 that left the unit ranked 10th against the run and 10th in total yards allowed.

It has lacked a strong pass rush and the ability to generate turnovers, both of which were problem areas in 2018. And the defense failed to hold leads. The Lions had the lead in all of the first 12 games but managed only a tie and three wins.

The offense has been ravaged by injuries, none more crippling than the back and hip injuries that sidelined quarterback Matthew Stafford since the eighth game.

Stafford was playing at a level worthy of MVP consideration in the first eight games. His average of 312.4 passing yards per game remains second only to Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's average of 326.6.

Stafford had 19 touchdown passes against five interceptions, and an average of 8.6 yards per attempt – highest of his career and almost two full yards higher than his 6.8-yard average in 2018.

How thoroughly Stafford was dialed in to Bevell's offense was obvious in his last three games.

He completed 81 of 118 passes for 1,112 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating for the three games was 116.2.

Quinn and Patricia will have an opportunity to solve the Lions' issues in 2020. The mandate is to do it.

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