In just his second season at the helm of the Detroit Lions, Matt Patricia is already making key card jokes.
"When I was in other places and worked at other places, part of the thing that just makes me, me is that I go into work every single day trying to earn my job that day," Patricia said Monday, via The Detroit News. "I would go in and make sure that my key card worked, and I was in the building and I was 'OK.' It's mostly the reason why I don't leave the building because they're going to have to throw me out."
Patricia is feeling the heat that comes with a 3-10-1 team, especially one that guaranteed with its latest loss is not going to match its disappointing 6-10 mark from his first season in charge. Such a step backward in a season filled with unfortunate injuries at the most important position in sports, among others, has inspired those questions that are all too familiar to Lions fans.
You know what questions I'm talking about.
"You know what, I have conversations (with owner Martha Firestone Ford) all the time," Patricia said. "I like to keep all of that stuff private as I think it's important to do. Again, for me, it's just every day, it's one day at a time, just trying to go in and do everything I can to be a better coach today, a better coach tomorrow, and we'll go from there."
Yes, it's that time of the year in the NFL and that time of the tenure for Patricia, the time in which he'll be asked if he's had to sell his survival to his team's ownership. It's always an interesting time for a wide range of reasons, depending on the coach's situation, but Patricia's seems especially intriguing because of his status as a Bill Belichick-groomed wunderkind who was going to come to the Motor City and turn the Lions into a defensive machine.
He's instead coached a team that ranks 31st in yards allowed per game and just gave up 38 points to Tampa Bay, including three receiving touchdowns to Breshad Perriman.
Outings like Sunday are a big reason why Patricia's footing isn't viewed as entirely stable in Detroit. He sees potential in his squad, of course, but acknowledged it's really only tackling the basic stuff at this point: playing hard together.
Patricia pointed out how his team battles to the very end of every game and highlighted locker room camaraderie as proof that things are slowly turning in Detroit. He's right to an extent: Before the Lions' most recent two losses, they'd fallen by a single possession in each of the five prior games.
It's a common mark of a young team that doesn't yet know how to finish off close victories, but it should be encouraging to see that the team is even in these contests to the very end. Eventually, like a budding salesperson, if things are in place long enough, a good amount of those teams figure out how to close the deal.
"We just look at, 'OK, what are we building? What have we started and where is our foundation right now?'," Patricia said. "I think having a foundation of a team that is tough, a foundation of a team that is competitive, from a standpoint that they're going to come to work every day and try to get better, and then show up on Sunday and really try to do everything they can to compete.
"I think that's where you need to start, and I would say that's where we're at right now. We obviously need to add some pieces, and we need to get better, and we need to improve, and hopefully stay a little bit more healthy than where we're at right now. I think those things will build on top of each other from there."
We'll see if he's around long enough to see it become a reality.