DETROIT - Matt Patricia isn't going to change who he is. But that doesn't mean he can't - or won't - change part of how he coaches the Detroit Lions.
We're not talking about the way he wants his team to play, but in the way he instructs his team to play.
Even in the NFL, it's all about communication. Something Patricia struggled with at times last season. To his credit, Patricia has reached out to players and staff members to ask him what he can do better.
"We're all having great conversations, great meetings through the offseason with the time that we've had through the spring and a lot of the conversations that I had, really, right after the season with the guys and all of us understand that we just all have to do better," he said Tuesday. "In the end, it's just about trying to go perform better on Sundays."
A year ago this fall, Patricia stumbled onto the national stage when the New York Jets whipped the Lions on Monday night. His team looked unprepared. It got worse from there.
Injuries. Testy news conferences. Players complaining through backchannels about his methods. It was a tough first year.
The stylistic and personality contrast between he and his predecessor - Jim Caldwell - didn't help. Where Caldwell was calm, warm and professorial, Patricia was abrasive and intense.
Change is hard, especially changes in tone. That there will be less change this season should help. So, too, should a certain amount of locker room turnover.
One of the underrated aspects of the Patriots' success is that Bill Belichick isn't just gifted at identifying talent, he's good at understanding what kind of personality fits into his culture, at finding players who can play for him.
Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn are trying to do the same thing here ... by bringing in former Patriots. And by drafting players they think can handle their style of leadership.
Because even if Patricia tweaks his approach here and there, he knows it's easier if he's coaching a team of players who don't mind his approach. In this way, the team will adapt to him as much - or more - as he adapts to the team.
That's the theory, anyway. That's why you heard Quinn use words like "toughness" and "versatility" and "leadership" when he described the draft picks he made last month.
Still, Patricia knows he had plenty to learn, too. That he can't just bend an entire franchise toward him. That he has to bend, as well.
"Obviously, taking a year into a job to take a look back at myself and what I was able to do and not do from that perspective, and also learn our team, learn our players, and have our players learn me," he said. "I think with any sort of working relationship, hopefully Year 2 is always better. Obviously, got to go out and produce when we get to the fall, but right now, it's all about improving day by day, which is great."
Patricia said he dismissed the noise about the grumbling from his locker room. Said he doesn't worry about outside perceptions.
That's fine. And fair. As long as he wins.
"For me, I don't really buy into what is being said outside the building," he said. "It's really what's inside the building, and I think that myself and the players are all just pushing forward in the right direction ... The rest of the stuff doesn't really matter, and I think everybody gets that."
At the moment, as his team works through its organized team activities, this means doubling down on the culture he began to build a year ago while continuing to improve the way he communicates.
This also means overseeing a new offensive system.
"There's a lot of learning going on right now," he said, "which is great for everybody."
Patricia admitted he had even more to learn a year ago when he first stepped into the building after he was hired. And that because he's been through an offseason and season, he has a better idea of what to expect and what to change as he tries to build a foundation.
This is as critical as his strategy. For in football, talent means little without chemistry.
"I've just had a little bit more of an opportunity to kind of set up the offseason, I would say," he said. "I'm not coming into a situation where it was so frantic coming off of the season that I had previously, coming into a new place, trying to learn a team. I would say hopefully ... (that) will make me better as a head coach moving forward."
We won't know until this fall whether changes in his approach or changes in personalities in the locker room will change anything on the field. But at least there is a plan. There is recognition, too.
Self-awareness is critical to improvement. Patricia expressed some Tuesday.
That's a start.
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