BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Count Rodney Harrison among those who believe Matt Patricia will thrive as the next head coach of the Detroit Lions.
The former New England Patriots safety advocated for Patricia on Tuesday, praising the defensive coordinator’s communication skills and connection with his players.
Harrison was with the Patriots during Patricia’s first five seasons on Bill Belichick’s coaching staff, which included stints as an offensive assistant (2004), assistant offensive line coach (2005) and linebackers coach (2006 to 2008).
“I love Matt Patricia,” Harrison told reporters during a Super Bowl LII media session at the Mall of America. “I’ve been around for a long time, and people always ask me about his personality — is he the right guy for a head-coaching job? And I say, ‘You’re damn right he is.’ You know why? Because he’s smart, he understands players, he knows how to communicate. And if that doesn’t equate to him getting a head-coaching job somewhere because of what the public perception is, it’s wrong, because the players love him.”
Patricia, who interviewed for head-coaching vacancies last winter before deciding to remain with the Patriots, came under fire early this season after New England allowed an NFL-high 128 points over its first four games. The Patriots’ defense stabilized, however, surrendering the fewest points in the league over the final 13 weeks to finish fifth in scoring defense.
Harrison believes Patricia deserves considerable credit for this turnaround.
“Look at the adjustment he made (after) the first quarter of the season,” the NFLer-turned-NBC analyst said. “The first four games of the season, they played like crap. (Then they) made some adjustments, and they end up becoming one of the best defenses in the league. That should tell you about Matt Patricia and what he’s capable of doing.”
Harrison was a member of the 2004 Patriots team that lost coordinators Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis after winning Super Bowl XXXIX. He doesn’t believe Patricia’s and Josh McDaniels’ impending departures will affect New England’s preparation for Super Bowl LII.
“I don’t think they’re paying much attention to it, because they’re focused on this one game,” Harrison said. “The Patriots have that unique ability to do that — the players, the coaches. Because you never hear Belichick talking about the next opponent, and I think that carries throughout the locker room.”
Though no deal has been finalized, Patricia is expected to join the Lions after the Patriots’ season concludes. McDaniels, New England’s offensive coordinator, is expected to become head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports Images