Matt Patricia thinks there are three traits that make a tough football team. And if Patricia thinks that, you can bet it's because Bill Belichick thought it first.
Patricia spent 14 seasons on Belichick's staff, so it's safe to say there are very few football-related thoughts the Detroit Lions head coach doesn't filter through the Belichick philosophy, but that doesn't mean Patricia isn't a smart football mind of his own. The guy who left a promising aeronautical engineering career to take a GA job at RPI arrived in Foxboro as a 30-year-old with very little experience and left as an NFL head coach.
Beyond that, he spent his first two years in lower-level offensive roles -- offensive assistant in 2004, assistant offensive line coach in 2005 -- and left as defensive coordinator. In fact, his last game was the epic 28-3 Super Bowl comeback against the Atlanta Falcons.
Back to the topic at hand. During his talk at Alabama's coaching clinic -- Patricia was invited by Nick Saban himself -- Patricia identified three characteristics that make a tough team. You'll certainly identify the first two, but perhaps not the third.
“We talk about toughness all the time. I think toughness is something in our sport that is thrown out there, you know, ‘He’s a tough kid.’ But we want to have a tough team. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean that we’re going to be the hardest-hitting team, we want to be that anyways," Patricia said, via The Athletic. "Doesn’t mean that we’re going to be the most physically gifted looking team. We quantify (toughness) and evaluate it with three different concepts: Can you run the ball? Can you stop the run? And can you cover kicks? That’s something we really learned when I was in New England in 2016 — we played Atlanta in the Super Bowl, it was solidified. Do those three things, you can control the game. Control the game, the score doesn’t matter, because you will win. You will have that opportunity to come back.”
Again, anyone would've linked the ability to run the ball and stop the run with a tough football team, but of all the other aspects of football -- rushing the passer, protecting the passer -- covering kicks wouldn't have been the next guess, or at least it wouldn't have been mine. The concept is the same as stopping the run, though: eliminating the opponent's ability to advance the ball on the ground.
Patricia spoke to Alabama high school coaches for 45 minutes last Friday, and The Athletic Take a look herecaptured the gist of Patricia's talk and his philosophy as a coach. .