It is near the end of the week – the bye week for the Detroit Lions – and as Matt Patricia takes a mid-afternoon break there are barely enough people left in the team's Allen Park headquarters to choose sides for a game of pickup football. Six-man football, at that.
Patricia has been working since early morning – his regular routine since he was hired as the Lions' head coach on Feb. 5.
"Just walked out of a meeting," he said. "It started at 7:30."
Patricia has planned to take a break from what has been a whirlwind in his first job as head coach after 14 seasons as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots.
"I'd like to go to my house, which I haven't been to that much," he said. "I want to see my kids. The biggest thing is, I want to be a dad."
After starting the season with two losses, the Lions have beaten the Patriots and Packers for a 2-3 won-loss record at the bye.
Before departing, Patricia took time for this conversation with detroitlions.com. He touched on a wide range of topics.
Among them: His feeling on where the team stands, and if it's in position to make a move upward in the NFC North; if he has a win total in mind to make the playoffs; his view of a number of players; his experience of winning big in New England and his analysis of how NFL teams are separated into tiers – top, bottom and middle, and his desire to put the Lions at the top.
View the best photos of the offense from the first five games of the season.
Q. You're going to restart the season coming off the bye. What sort of feeling do you have about how your team stands with a 2-3 record after five games?
Patricia: "We're still kind of learning. I know the team is tough. I know they work hard. I know they're mentally tough. We're trying to do things the right way. I think we learned what process works and what process doesn't work.
"For me, the NFL season is so different from when you go from training camp to September, from September into October, early November and then November on. We're kind of entering that next phase.
"Whatever that team was, whatever we learned in the first part of the year, it's going to change. It's going to move. We just have to make sure we're moving in the right direction."
Q. Do you have a good feel for where the team is? Is your team ready to make that move?
Patricia: "I think it's time. It feels like it's time to have that change. Whether we get it done or not, that's to be seen. It is what it is for this time in the year. I think the guys are working hard. I think they're trying to do it the right way. That's important."
Q. You want to make a playoff run, and it starts Sunday in Miami.
Patricia: "We've got a huge stretch coming up in front of us. It's not going to be easy."
Q. Do you have a number in mind?
Patricia: "As far as what?"
Q. As far as how many wins it will take to make the playoffs.
Patricia: "All of them. You've got to win them all."
Q. OK, but if you look at research, it usually takes 10 wins to make the playoffs ...
Patricia: "I don't care about research. I don't care about any of that. You rely on too many factors. I don't think about any of that. It's not where I am. I just want to win in Miami. And when we get through that, we try to beat Seattle.
"And then we go from there. We want to beat them all.
"I was 11-5 once (2008 in New England), and we didn't make the playoffs ... the only time I was there ... on a tiebreaker. That was my worst year as a Patriot."
Q. So you guys are 11-5 in New England and you're not happy?
Patricia: "Yea, no doubt. We missed the playoffs so not one person was happy. Did we overcome some adversity that year? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, everyone will look back at it as one of our least successful years. We weren't playing in January. The way I look at it, only one team is happy at the end of every NFL season.
"I'm way too competitive to have any other mindset. I hate losing. It's not OK. It's not OK to come in here and lose. It's just the bottom line."
View the best photos of the defense from the first five games of the season.
Q. Your views on some of your players. On Matthew Stafford: He takes heat for everything that goes wrong.
Patricia: "Obviously, he's great. He's everything you want in a quarterback – tough, smart, works hard. Obviously gifted athletically. I said before, I'm lucky to be in a situation to have that guy as my quarterback. I'm blessed for that situation.
"What's great about him is, I love to be able to talk football with him. He's a football guy. He loves to talk players or scheme or philosophies on different things he studies. It's like talking to a coach. Going through the offseason, for me it was great to have that relationship. There's a lot of open communication. He loves the game. He is all about it, which is awesome."
Q. On Ziggy Ansah: What impact does he make on your defense, and when will we see him out there?
Patricia: "When he's ready to go ... when he's out there. The biggest thing about him for us is, he's a dynamic player. The opponent has to pay a lot of attention to him. He's got a great skill set. He's that special type of unique player who can change the game at any time.
"The thing that impressed me the most is, all the pass rush he brings, which is great, but it's his ability to play the run and be able to get separation – and the strength he plays with and the pursuit he plays with is great."
Q. The wide receivers: It looks like we're about to anoint Kenny Golladay as the next great young receiver to go with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. That's a formidable trio.
Patricia: "There's no anointing yet. We're just trying to play good football. Those are three really great players – three guys who are very talented. Three guys with different skills sets, which is great. It's harder to defend all three different types of bodies, at all three levels.
"They work hard. They compete. They try to get better. They want to improve. They want to win. It's good."
Q. Jarrad David: The second-year middle linebacker:
Patricia: "Good young player – a guy still learning the game. He's so early on in his career. A lot of outside people look at him like he's a 10-year vet. He's just getting into his career. He's extremely smart. He's a leader of our defense. He works harder than anybody to get it right. He's everything you want to coach and help make him a better player. He's awesome in that regard. He's in a system that's brand new. He's not like a five-year veteran who's been in the system."
Q. Run game, strong up front, youth: There are some young players – Frank Ragnow and Kerryon Johnson on offense. Da'Shawn Hand on defense. The offense and the running game have been the primary focus.
Patricia: "Offensively, those are key players for us to try to do that. Frank is strong. He's athletic. He's had to do a lot. We put him in a lot of positions. He's handled it well. Kerryon's done a good job coming in and helping us out as well.
"For Kerryon, and all rookies in the league for that matter, the earlier parts of the season are unique in that there isn't that much pro film of them. He will need to continue to improve and evolve just like our opponents will change as well."
Q. On LeGarrette Blount: The veteran power runner and short-yardage specialist has played his role.
Patricia: "LeGarrette is very well known for his ability to run with power. Teams have geared up from the get to stop that and load the box and create some different pressures with different blitzes. So the yardage he gets, those are tough yards. Really tough yards. He's to be commended for that. That's part of the toughness we're trying to build."
Q. On veteran Glover Quin: Leadership from a solid vet.
Patricia: "Great leadership. Smart. He's seen a lot of football, which is good. He helps the younger guys develop. For me, it's a good voice to be able to bounce different thoughts off. I can have that conversation with him on a much deeper level of -- 'Hey, which is why we're doing so and so; why we're playing this way.' He can help me translate that message to everybody else. That's big."
Q. On Darius Slay: Pro Bowl cornerback with more flash and sizzle:
Patricia: "Learning about Slay, you can get caught up in all that other stuff. Here's what I know: He's tough. This guy is tough. He wants to win. He cares. He doesn't care what you ask him to go out and do. He's going to do it. He doesn't balk. He doesn't wait. He doesn't slow down. He just goes out and tries to do it. He cares. Game day, he wants to go. It's great."
Q. On the NFL's team tiers: Top, the bottom and the middle:
Patricia: "This is the way the league works. There are a small handful of teams sitting in the upper echelon. This group fluctuates a bit from year to year but generally speaking, it's a select group of teams that have been there consistently. They have an established culture working for them. They have the players and they are consistent. They expect to be in the playoffs and win multiple games in the playoffs.
"The middle of the league is where you find the bulk of the teams because it's such an incredibly fine line between winning and losing. Honestly, the difference in 10-6 and 6-10 often is not much. Same with 9-7 or 7-9. It's a really competitive game, and the competition within each division is often very high as well.
"I want to be at the top. I also understand how much work goes into getting up to that level. It takes everything you, your players, and your staff have to get there. I love that process. It's why I coach. It's why I aim to prepare the team at the highest level. It's hard to do. You hear coaches say all the time, 'it's really hard to win in the NFL.' It sounds cliché but it's true. Because it's the best of the best in the world playing each other every Sunday. But that's where I want to be."