At this point, maybe he and Bob Quinn are the only ones who can see it. But Matt Patricia has a vision, and for at least another year he'll have the chance to see it through.
The Lions announced Tuesday that both will be back for 2020, with the understanding that another losing season won't be accepted. It will be now or never next year for Patricia and Quinn.
"It means the world to me," Patricia said of the opportunity. "I think we’ve talked about it before, it’s a process that we’re trying to go through to get the team to a highly competitive level that can sustain, and be consistent, and handle the ebbs and flows of an NFL season, injuries and the rest of it. It’s something that we’re trying to lay a foundation for.
"I think we’ve seen some strides that we’ve made with the team this year, but we obviously need to build and improve upon that going forward. Certainly, to have the conversations that I have with Mrs. Ford and her family, and how appreciative I am of the opportunity to be able to do something that can follow through on a vision of what we’re trying to do here, is so important."
From the standpoint of results, this season has been a total loss. The Lions will finish in last place for the second year in a row; they may well finish with their fewest wins since 2009. Part of that is due to injuries, and ownership said Tuesday it was encouraged by the way the team played in the first half of the year when healthy.
It was a message Patricia echoed on Tuesday when asked how his team has grown this season.
"The team that we’re trying to build and the foundation we’re trying to build upon is the stability of our young players, the players that we’ve brought in, and certainly the players that have been here that have been at this for a long time," Patricia said. "Just making sure that we’re building that tough mindset, that competitive mindset that we’re trying to achieve every single week."
If not "in the box score," Patricia said the team's growth is evident "in the way that our players handle the games week-by-week, how they prepare, and how they’ve improved. Some of it is a combination of veteran players that are helping young guys get ready to go each week, and how competitive some of those guys are that come out and play. Then the younger players that have stepped into those roles and accepting that responsibility, you can see their growth as you go through the season, too.
"We’re trying to have a team that cares about each other, that plays hard, fights for each other, and comes to work every day with a mindset to compete and get better. That’s where we’re starting.”
It's a nice sentiment. Fact is, that growth hasn't yielded enough wins, especially for a team that went 9-7 in the two seasons prior to Patricia's arrival. Are the Lions close?
“I don’t really know if I have that answer for you at the moment," Patricia said. "I think certainly we’re not close on a record standpoint. That just kind of is what it is."
And so is this: 2020 is his last chance -- and Quinn's -- to get it right.