Darius Slay’s parting shot underscores culture clash in Detroit

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Darius Slay had five years of experience in the Detroit Lions organization before Matt Patricia arrived as head coach. And Slay’s experience with Patricia shows what happens when 60 years of mediocrity-at-best slams into the Patriot Way.

After the trade that sent Slay to the Eagles, Slay started talking on the record about Patricia. The inescapable message is that Slay liked things the way they were, and that he resented Patricia’s effort to instill a culture that has proven to work, elsewhere.

In an interview with Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Slay recounted an incident from 2018 that poisoned the relationship.

“He told me in front of the whole team, in the team meeting room, showed clips of me in practice getting a ball caught on me or so in practice,” Slay said.

Let’s press pause on Slay’s comments. He’s basically explaining that Patricia employed a Bill Belichick move, one that he routinely utilized over the years with Tom Brady (to the surprise, as explained in the attached video, of Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth in 2007 and Chad Johnson in 2011). Belichick routinely calls out the stars in order to send a clear and potent message that no one is above criticism.

Slay, during his five years in the Detroit organization, apparently had never experienced that. So he didn’t like it, and it set the stage for his reaction to the rest of Patricia’s remarks.

“I posted a picture [of a wide receiver on Instagram], and he told me, stop sucking this man’s private,” Slay said. “So I’m like, ‘Whoa.’ I’m like, ‘Hold up.’ Where I’m from, that don’t fly. ‘Cause I wouldn’t say that to him. I wouldn’t say to him to stop you know what to Bill Belichick. I wouldn’t do that. That’s just not me as a man. That’s disrespectful to me and so from there on it was done with.”

Reasonable minds may differ on whether Patricia should have used the phrase, but the reality is that it’s hardly an uncommon term. Typically, it isn’t meant literally; it’s aimed at discouraging gratuitous or premature praise. And it likely hit the mainstream when Harvey Keitel’s character used it in Pulp Fiction.

Is it crass and vulgar? Absolutely. Is there a risk in directing that phrase to someone you barely know? Obviously. And Slay possibly took it literally because Slay already was upset with Patricia for being called out in front of his teammates, and Slay likely was looking for any reason to justify his instant dislike of Patricia.

After the meeting, former running backs coach David Walker approached Slay to explain that Patricia was trying to send a message to the team to stay off social media, and that Patricia targeted Slay because of his standing in the locker room.

“I was real teary-eyed because I got real, real mad and he was like, ‘Slay, man, he’s just trying to . . . set the tone for the team that some stuff don’t go,” Slay told Birkett regarding the conversation with Walker. “He don’t like social media so he trying to post it, make it calm social media down, ’cause a lot of us like social media. I said, ‘Man, I wasn’t trying to hear that because of the fact that I’m a grown man, he’s a grown man.'”

Patricia issued a statement to Birkett in response to Slay’s on-the-way-out-the-door remarks.

“Over the last two seasons, Darius and I have had multiple conversations in private that I believed were constructive and satisfactory,” the statement explains. “My discussions with athletes are confidential and I won’t comment on anything discussed with our players in a team meeting. I appreciate his hard work and wish he and his family all the success in Philadelphia.”

That’s not a denial, because there’s presumably nothing to deny. Patricia did what he saw Belichick do for well over a decade in New England. Instead of approaching Slay ahead of time to explain that Patricia would be using the player as an example for the rest of the team, Patricia opted to try to make the point and clean things up after the fact. It didn’t work, laying the foundation for Slay never fully buying in to what Patricia was trying to do.

The bigger problem for Patricia is that the Belichick approach only works if the team wins. At 9-22-1 through two seasons, Patricia’s attempt to change the culture is on the verge of implosion. Indeed, if the goal is to change the culture in order to win and the team isn’t winning, why bother to change the culture?

That’s the risk Belichick took in New England in the early days of the Patriot Way. If it hadn’t worked, he would have become a twice-fired head coach, possibly destined to grumble his way through the balance of his career as a defensive coordinator.

Patricia has taken that same risk, and he’s getting closer and closer to the expiration date of the Patriots-meet-Lions experiment. Currently, Patricia and G.M. Bob Quinn are in a race to overload the locker room with guys who will buy in, to identify and remove the guys who won’t, and to hope that the guys who buy in have the talent to win.

41 responses to “Darius Slay’s parting shot underscores culture clash in Detroit

  1. Man up Slay and accept the criticism. Adults don’t need to be coddled. The parting shots over this by Slay show a lack of class on his part.

  2. I didn’t get why they didn’t do a Miami, but as fast as Miami. Flores didn’t. He identified the cancers immediately in the first year. Patricia did it piecemeal and it may cost him because of how impatient people are.

    That said, Detroit needs to show up.

    PS Slay is a snowflake and a bum.

  3. Patricia obviously has zero people skills. The Patriot way works when you’ve got a locker room already “bought in” and new players can be assimilated into the culture.

    It’s entirely different trying to change the culture of an entire locker room at once. That’s why a lot of New England coaches fail when they get head coaching jobs. They don’t understand that fact. Different people react in different ways to being forced to change. Finesse is needed to bring everyone on board. The heavy hand brings failure.

  4. Patricia, O’Brien, Marrone… I don’t observe anything that says these guys get it in this day and age.

  5. It’s okay to cut them down, but you also have to build them up at other times. One of the reasons Tom is in Tampa, I think.

  6. You can only play Strongman when you have credibility, people skills and a basic understanding of professional dynamics.

  7. Just because Belichick does it doesn’t mean everybody should do it. When are we going to get that?

  8. ‘Cause I wouldn’t say that to him. I wouldn’t say to him to stop you know what to Bill Belichick. I wouldn’t do that. That’s just not me as a man.”

    That’s a coward move, idiot.

  9. That’s why they dumped him and signed Harmon alot of players today are babies and cant handle real old world coaching which is the Patriot way.

  10. Somehow, I see Slay posting all sorts of social media posts and video of his 2 pick, 8 tackle game….in a 21-0 loss. Winning is secondary to stats.

  11. Mediocrity didn’t work and maybe the “patriot way” may not work either. But I would definitely take the latter. Patricia probably did it to get him to buy into it what he is trying to instill and also to see if he is to soft on the inside to be his type of leader. The fact he got teary eyed showed Patricia he is to soft on the inside to meet the demands of being his leader.

  12. The Lions are doomed with Quinn and Patricia. Neither one deserved another year in Detroit.

  13. It’s even worse for Patricia when you recall that his immediate predecessor as head coach went 9-7 in back to back seasons. 18-14 exposes the 9-22-1 “Patriot Way” as the pathetic joke it is and has always proven to be outside of New England.

  14. These guys all profess to be team players and want to win above all but can’t take the constructive criticism that is needed to become a winner on a winning team.

  15. Another ex-Pats coach who tried to be Belichek before having any success.

    This is whats wrong with retooling a team instead of rebuilding it like Miami did.

    Flores > every coach who left NE.

    Detroit needs to start over…..maybe next year when they clean house.

    If I were them I’d see what I can get fro Stafford and take Tua, thus screwing Miami in the process. I hope they don’t though.

  16. Sorry, but saying that Patricia’s methods are the same as “the Patriot way” is incorrect.

    Belichick would have never done the things Slay is describing.

  17. The thin skin of players today makes you laugh, the only thing they buy into is the me me me attitude

  18. I’m not a Lions fan but I’m not a Lions hater either. I watched them play Denver near the end of the season and I saw a team that played hard and were disciplined. They lost again, but not because they didn’t put out a strong effort even though they were on a long losing streak and playing a meaningless game on the road. Sometimes teams do play hard in spite of their coach. As a Browns fan, they beat Pittsburgh years ago with Mangini as coach because they were sick of losing to Pittsburgh not because they played hard for their coach. I don’t know if Patricia will succeed, but I have no doubt they would have won more games with him as head coach instead of Freddie Kitchens.

  19. therealtrenches says:
    March 21, 2020 at 11:29 am
    Sorry, but saying that Patricia’s methods are the same as “the Patriot way” is incorrect.

    Belichick would have never done the things Slay is describing
    ————-

    You don’t remember audio catching Bill leaving the field after beating the Jets?

    “#1 defence… suck my ****”
    This is a grown man’s professional team. They hear these things.

  20. If he wants this to work in Detroit like it worked for Belichik in New England he should be begging Bob Quinn to draft his Tom Brady (Tua?) because he already has his Drew Bledsoe.

  21. Win starved Lions and the press are underrating the job MattyP has done there. In a tough division, he’s has completely changed the culture. In the beginning of his 2nd year, they were 3-4-1. Including a 4 point loss to KC and a 1 point loss in GBay. They were in every game, playing hard, tough disciplined FB. Then Stafford got hurt and they went 0-8 down the stretch with their terrible backups. The light is at the end of the tunnel. Slay is a good player, but just the type you don’t need on your team. He was probbably one of the ones complaining about the extra conditioning MP made them do. Let him take his sensitivity and ego elsewhere and get coddled. Trufant is a downgrade, but still a good player. In a couple of years, Detroit will be glad Matty P is their HC

  22. If football is really a business why wouldn’t the same employment practices apply Pointing out a mistake it’s business as usual but that other stuff is not.

    The NFL is still treading the line between being a game or being a business, but more more it’s a business.

  23. Although calling out your best players to show nobody is above reproach isn’t unusual you run the risk of losing the team on how you do it. To disrespect a player with comments like that in front of everyone in my opinion is wrong. Slay isn’t wrong for getting upset about it. Matty P isn’t Lord Bill and never will be. He needs to gain respect from his players first by winning. He’s just another average coach trying to build the Patriot way not knowing it cant be done.

  24. There was an insider quoted in the Detroit coverage of this who said that Mr. Slay was a cancer who didn’t pay attention in meetings and did his best to undermine Patricia and his system…..so there’s that.

  25. It might work in the Patriots house,… but it doesn’t mean it works for every team.
    It’s been said Vince Lombardi’s tactics with his players in the late 50’s and 60’s just wouldn’t fly in today’s NFL locker rooms.
    I think Patricia is barking up the wrong tree. He should be himself,… not Bill.

  26. I say again, pro athletes today are ultra sensitive babies. I wish someone could snap their fingers and put them on a football team in the 1950’s. They wouldn’t last 5 minutes because they’d be on their way home to mommy.
    Grow up, NFL players!

  27. So he got his feelings hurt when they showed a clip of a receiver catching a pass against him. He’s what you call an addition by subtraction.

  28. You know that fable where to cook a frog you out him in a pot of cool water and slowly bring it to boil? Yeah, no doubt the Patriot Way works, but he threw that frog directly into boiling water.

    Belichicks knows how the human psyche works. Patricia seems to be Belichicks in Cleveland, rather than New England…

  29. Loved Big Play play, but last season was a definite drop off. Too many times watching Slay follow a receiver into the end zone a yard behind. Perhaps it was a lack of effort because of his relationship or lack thereof with Patricia but it was there. Regarding his comment: “I’m a grown man”, if you have to say it you probably aren’t. And grown men don’t whine.

  30. tedmurph says:
    March 21, 2020 at 12:25 pm
    Win starved Lions and the press are underrating the job MattyP has done there. In a tough division, he’s has completely changed the culture. In the beginning of his 2nd year, they were 3-4-1. Including a 4 point loss to KC and a 1 point loss in GBay. They were in every game, playing hard, tough disciplined FB. Then Stafford got hurt and they went 0-8 down the stretch with their terrible backups. The light is at the end of the tunnel. Slay is a good player, but just the type you don’t need on your team. He was probbably one of the ones complaining about the extra conditioning MP made them do. Let him take his sensitivity and ego elsewhere and get coddled. Trufant is a downgrade, but still a good player. In a couple of years, Detroit will be glad Matty P is their HC

    What are you smoking? He took over a 9-7 team and they’ve gotten worst every year he’s been here. He’s a terrible coach. Don’t use the Stafford injury as an excuse either because they weren’t doing much while he was healthy. The biggest problem for this team is their defense and all the clown show keeps doing is bringing in former Patriots that are only good because of Belicheat.

  31. If the 9-7 team was so good, why did they fire the coach? If it’s the D, they woulda had to be pretty good. They only cracked 20 points once over the last 8 games and averaged 17/game. Don’t want Patriot Champions on your team? Makes total sense. In loserville. Stick with the cancers and the guys cashing their paychecks with masks on

  32. If you’re a “grown man” you wouldn’t have literally been in tears over this. Harden the eff up.

  33. This type of story will probably fool the ford family into thinking Patricia is the right guy. The rest of the NFC north is no doubt thrilled for them to think that way. He still took a team with a winning record and crashed and burned. That is way bigger than calling out one player in a meeting. No one has been successful in duplicating the patriots way anymore than copying the 49’ers or the 70’s Steelers, etc. don’t hire a coach for where he’s been but for what he can do. Most of these former patriots assistants are one trick ponies. There is one BB and one patriots way. Find your own way.

  34. As with Patricia, so as with Brian Flores? This could explain why stars Minkah Fitzpatrick, Kenyon Drake, Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, Kiko Alonzo, Jordan Phillips and perhaps others (Tannehill? Nah!) wanted out of Miami–Gase maybe spoiled them. The Fins that were kept and signed off the street like Nick Needham and Patrick Laird and others went with “the Flo” that is, the Patriot Way.

  35. Slay is a really good player but he is holding a grudges for years. And then he doesn’t say much to the coach until he left the building. That is like the kid that waits until he is a block away before he starts yelling stuff at you.

  36. tedmurph says:
    March 21, 2020 at 3:10 pm
    If the 9-7 team was so good, why did they fire the coach? If it’s the D, they woulda had to be pretty good. They only cracked 20 points once over the last 8 games and averaged 17/game. Don’t want Patriot Champions on your team? Makes total sense. In loserville. Stick with the cancers and the guys cashing their paychecks with masks on

    First of all I never said 9-7 was so good. But here we are a couple years later and Fat Matt can’t even sniff a 9 win season. He’s too busy trying to be like Belicheat but he’s just another rotten apple off his coaching tree. And if these guys leaving the Patriots were so good why aren’t the Patriots keeping them? Like the coaches that leave, the players don’t pan out either.

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