Feb. 14-- Rod Wood insists he didn't set out to build the Midwest version of the New England Patriots when he oversaw a change in the entire Detroit Lions operation some two years ago, but it shouldn't come as a surprise that's what's happened.
Wood hired Ernie Accorsi as a consultant to help the Lions find a general manager late in the 2015 season. Accorsi delivered Bob Quinn as general manager a month or so later, and last week Quinn hired Matt Patricia as head coach.
Both Quinn and Patricia spent more than a decade with the Patriots, the only other NFL team they've worked for, and both have brought others with Patriots ties along with them (including vice president of player personnel Kyle O'Brien, strength coach Harold Nash and offensive line coach Jeff Davidson).
"We're not trying to replicate the Patriots," Wood said after Patricia's hiring last week. "Whether Bob or Matt had been there or not, I think they would have been great candidates regardless. I think the fact that they both worked together, whether it was in New England or some other team, helps because they've got a relationship and history."
Both Quinn and Patricia had strong resumes before coming to Detroit that included multiple Super Bowl championships, but their place in the Patriots pipeline can't be ignored.
Accorsi, the former general manager of the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns and New York Giants, has a long history with Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Belichick said in 2016 that he's known Accorsi since he broke into the league with Colts in the mid-1970s. Accorsi hired Belichick to coach the Browns in 1991. And Accorsi has fronted other searches that have ended with the hiring of a Belichick disciple (including Thomas Dimitroff as Atlanta Falcons GM).
At the time of Quinn's hiring, Accorsi, who interviewed just two other candidates for the Lions' GM job-his former colleague with the Giants, Kevin Abrams, and in-house candidate Sheldon White-said, "Talking to (Quinn) as much as we did, my first reaction was, 'Now I see why they do what they do.' They don't just win, they dominate. They just have a philosophy and a unique way of doing things and that's what he's going to bring to Detroit."
Quinn has followed much of the Patriots' method of roster building and player evaluation in his two seasons in Detroit, while doing so with a style all his own.
He's been more active on Day 1 of free agency, for instance, than is typical of the Patriots, but has largely used the draft to build the Lions' nucleus while embracing trades as a way to churn the back end of the roster.
Quinn, with Wood by his side, interviewed six candidates for the head coaching position, but Patricia had long been considered the front-runner for the job even going back to when Quinn first came aboard as GM in 2016.
The two have a close relationship that everyone agrees should benefit the Lions in a number of ways, from how they communicate to the language they speak when evaluating players. But Wood said "they're both their own person," too.
"They're not trying to be Bill Belichick, they're not trying to replicate the Patriot Way, but there's also some benefit from learning what it takes to win," Wood said. "And whether it's how you build the team or how hard you work or how you play situational football and how do you deal with things that you can't plan for, and I'm confident both of those guys are prepared because of the experience there to do that, and hopefully we're going to benefit from that."
The Patriots have been the preeminent NFL franchise of this millennium, winning Super Bowls after the 2001, 2003-04, 2014 and 2016 seasons, and appearing in the game three other times.
Belichick has been head coach and Tom Brady one of the game's best quarterbacks for that entire run, which has made copying the Patriots Way virtually impossible to do.
Patricia, for his part, said that's not his intention as Lions coach, and that he just wants to build a winner, however it happens.
"I think it's hard to ... categorize 'a way,' " Patricia said. "I think in general, Bob and I have a lot of experience and history together. We believe in a lot of the same things as far as when you look at and evaluate players. How a team should be run, how it should be coached, so there's a great background that we both share. And obviously a common ground that we both understand as how we both envision a team being run. So that's what makes it such a great match for Bob and I to be in this situation, that we can work together and try to put a team in place that we feel represents what we believe in, and what we want the Detroit Lions to look like.
"And hopefully that product will show up on the field. And I think after hopefully you have some success at that point, that's when maybe you start calling it the Lions Way. But we've got a long way to go before we have any particular way in which we'll call our own."
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