Former University of Michigan Wolverines linebacker Pierre Woods knows a few things about Matt Patricia, having played for the New England Patriots as an un-drafted free agent from 2006 to 2010.
After he was waived by New England in 2010 and subsequently picked up by the Buffalo Bills, Woods met with Patricia in his office and the two had a heart-to-heart. Woods reflected on their conversation and had nothing but the kindest of words to say about Patricia, who is the leading candidate to fill Detroit's head coaching vacancy following the dismissal of Jim Caldwell.
“We talked and he was like, ‘Man you know I'm here for you, anything you ever need. I love you, brother. I know it's a business, but this is not business. This is personal, you and I. I'll always be your brother, your mentor,” Woods explained. “We mentored each other in a sense. He's young. I just turned 36. I think Matt's (43). So we were close in age so we like came up together in a sense.”
Woods would only play six more NFL games (two in a return stint with the Patriots), but the impact Patricia made on him was nothing short of indelible. Should the Lions indeed hire Patricia as their next head coach, as is being heavily speculated, Woods wants Lions fans to know their team will be in as good of hands as possible.
“I know it’s a going to be a challenge for any young, first-year coach, but if they come to work and they do what they’re supposed to do, I’m telling you right now they’ll succeed, they’ll be champions,” Woods continued. “It’ll be hard for him to beat his mentor, but I guarantee you he’ll find a way because one thing that I know, Matt Patricia is one of the smartest men on God’s green earth and he’s going to find a way, within the rules of football, to beat you.”
His work ethic and aversion to losing, learned under the tutelage of legendary coach Bill Belichick, will give the Lions an edge that they've lacked for some time, according to Woods.
“My five years there, just the way it was, (he) was first to be there, last to leave, and that’s what he believed in,” Woods said. “No one likes losing, that’s Bill, that’s Matt. But I think Matt definitely hates losing more than anything, and it affects you because we all felt that same way.”
“Nobody's perfect, so that's like the hard thing to say, but if you're close to being perfect, that's what Matt Patricia has been.”
Of course, appearances can be deceiving. Belichick's often crusty demeanor gives the impression to many that he's a world-class curmudgeon, and that surely had to rub off on his most trusted assistant. Not so, says Woods.
“Even though what you see on ESPN with Belichick and Matt and their faces and you be like, ‘Man, they’re some a******s,' but they’re not,” Woods said. “Deep down great guys, great people, great coaches.”
All in all, Woods believes that if hired, Patricia will give the Lions his best, and hopes that the players respond in kind.
“All of us, Matty P, we love him and it’s well deserved and he’s going to do well,” Woods said. “I pray that the players in Detroit play their asses off for him because I guarantee you he’s going to give them his best.”
The Lions will not be able to formally negotiate with Patricia until after New England's season has concluded. They play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday for the AFC championship.