The Detroit Lions are in the midst of a six-decade drought.
Since their last championship season in 1957, they’ve won one playoff game in 1991 and then lost the conference title game to the Washington Redskins by a 41-10 margin.
They went to the playoffs once between 1957 and 1982 and were blanked from 1999 to 2011.
They’ve had two of the worst general managers in modern times in Russ Thomas and Matt Millen.
Their best player in the last six decades, Barry Sanders, got so fed up he quit in his prime.
And they never seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
At the end of last year, they fired Jim Caldwell after a pair of back-to-back 9-7 seasons, including a playoff appearance in 2016.
The general manager, Bob Quinn, who was hired after the 2015 season, decided to replace him with Matt Patricia, the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.
Quinn overlooked the fact that Bill Belichick assistants don’t tend to have a stellar record as head coaches. But then Quinn spent 16 years with the Patriots, so he knew Patricia.
Not well enough, it turns out.
A few months after Patricia was hired, the Detroit News did a background check on Patricia and discovered he was indicted on a sexual-assault charge in 1996. A woman said two men burst into her upscale hotel on March 15, 1996, and took turns violently assaulting her. She identified one of the men as Patricia. It happened at a Texas beach when they were visiting South Padre island.
But the woman decided she didn’t want the stress of testifying at a trial, so the case was dropped.
The Lions knew nothing about the case when they hired Patricia. Now maybe they would have hired him anyway, depending on what he had to say about the case when they interviewed him. But the question apparently wasn’t asked because the Lions didn’t do their due diligence.
Quinn was asked about this at his season-ending press conference earlier this month, and in his first public comments about it, said, “I am not paid to do extensive background checks.”
When Pro Football Talk reported that quote, it said that if Quinn doesn’t do them, someone in the organization should have been responsible for that.
“If Quinn isn’t capable of delegating that task to someone competent, then Quinn himself isn’t suited to the job of General Manger of an NFL team,’’ PFT wrote.
The website also wondered if Quinn didn’t ask Patricia if there was anything in his background that the team needed to know about because it would be a problem for the organization if it came to light.
Leave it to the Lions to make things worse in their response.
The Lions posted a link to the video of the press conference, suggesting that some context was missing from the one quote it used.
So PFT responded by printing the full transcript of the questions and answers on the topic.
That meant it got even more attention with a second article.
It showed that PFT provided full context.
When he was asked if it didn’t bother him that he didn’t know and that Patricia didn’t reveal it, Quinn said, “No, that’s – listen, we do our standard – for a high-level position, we do extensive background check on everybody. And nothing came up, so that’s kind of how we do those processes.”
The next logical question was how it could not come out if the paper found it quickly by searching his name.
“Well, that’s – listen, I’m not paid to do extensive background checks. I’m here to select the head coach. I’m very comfortable with Matt Patricia as our head coach.”
Apparently, Quinn’s comfortable with the fact Patricia took a 9-7 team and went 6-10 as the team finished last in the NFC North for the first time since 2012. The Lions are going backwards under Quinn and Patricia.
Of course, Patricia needs more than one year to prove he isn’t the answer, but it won’t be surprising if he doesn’t turn the team around and is fired in a year or two. And it’s troubling that Quinn hired an old friend. Not exactly an extensive search.
Among other things, Patricia had his team practice in the snow even though they have an indoor facility. And he told a reporter afterward that he didn’t like his questions and that he should stop slouching at press conferences.
All this is just the latest chapter in the Lions’ dysfunction.
Quinn also gave Matthew Stafford a huge contract even though Stafford has never won a playoff game and is now married to him because of the contract.
Of course, Quinn had to defend Stafford. What else could he do? One Detroit writer said he sounds like the violin player on the Titanic.
And so the violins keep playing for the Lions, who keep crashing into icebergs.
You have to wonder if they will ever figure out how to go around those icebergs.