Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is a former head coach of the Lions. Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is expected to become the Lions' new head coach at some point next week after the game concludes.
So it’s a convergence of Detroit’s last two defensive-minded, first-time head coaches in a city of one of the Lions’ biggest rivals.
They both worked under Bill Belichick, too, although at vastly different times. Schwartz was a scout and assistant for the Browns under Belichick from 1993 to 1995. Patricia has worked under Belichick in New England since 2004, eventually becoming his defensive coordinator and one of his most trusted assistants.
Belichick took both of them on from the college level in upstate New York. Schwartz coached linebackers at Colgate directly before jumping to the NFL and the Browns. Patricia was a graduate assistant at Syracuse before Belichick hired him.
“I owe just about my whole NFL career to him,” Schwartz said about Belichick to MLive in 2010. “No. 1, for giving me the chance. And No. 2, from the preparation and the knowledge that I gained in Cleveland with him. I think that the biggest thing is preparation.”
That preparation -- and how well it has worked in New England -- is part of what Detroit is hoping to inherit when it pairs up Patricia with another Belichick disciple in GM Bob Quinn.
Belichick even described Schwartz and Patricia similarly in different stories about them -- about Schwartz in the MLive story in 2010 and about Patricia to NESN in 2015. He praised the intelligence of both men in separate interviews and used similar verbiage when describing how both of them can handle multiple tasks at once. He also talked -- again, separately -- about how they had no problem going to Belichick with suggestions if they saw something that could help.
There is, though, little resemblance between the team Schwartz last coached in 2013 and the one Patricia will be inheriting next week. Since Schwartz’s departure following the 2013 season after going 29-51 in five seasons with one playoff appearance, the Lions have undergone almost a complete overhaul of their front office.
Former owner William Clay Ford Sr. died in March of 2014, and his wife, Martha Ford, took over ownership in his place. In 2015, the Lions fired team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew after a 1-7 start, replacing them with Detroit’s current front office staff of Quinn and team president Rod Wood.
The roster has mostly overturned as well. Just nine players remained on the Detroit roster at the end of the 2017 season from the end of the 2013 season, although they are also some of Detroit’s stalwarts.
Schwartz was hired by the Lions in 2009, just after the team had completed the first 0-16 season in NFL history. With his first pick, he selected quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was made the NFL’s highest-paid player by Detroit in August.
Running back Theo Riddick, cornerback Darius Slay, punter Sam Martin, defensive end Ezekiel Ansah and linebacker Tahir Whitehead were also drafted under his watch. Detroit signed safety Glover Quin in free agency during Schwartz’s time as Detroit’s head coach, and one player he inherited is still there in long-snapper Don Muhlbach.
It is possible Patricia ends up with fewer than those nine players, though, as Ansah, Whitehead and Muhlbach are all free agents.
That, however, is all in the future -- one that should start next week after Schwartz and Patricia try to stop opposing offenses on Sunday.