NFL

Who Is Robert Prince and Why Is He Coaching the Detroit Lions?

When the Detroit Lions take on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a rare 1 p.m. Eastern Saturday game, they’ll have an unfamiliar face calling the shots from the sideline. Matt Patricia was fired as head coach a few weeks back and then Darrell Bevell was named interim head coach. Bevell is out as head coach Saturday and little-known Robert Prince will be making the decisions.

The Detroit Lions fired Matt Patricia after Week 11

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The Detroit Lions are still trying to find the right man for their head coaching job. The team parted ways with Matt Patricia after Week 11 this season after two-plus years on the job. Patricia came over after a successful run handling the defense for the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick.

Patricia’s run in Detroit was ugly. In his first season in 2018, the Lions went 6-10. That six-win season, however, was the peak of his Lions career. In 2019, the Lions won three games, finishing the season 3-12-1. This year, the Lions were 4-7 when Patricia was let go.

Patricia was fired, along with GM Bob Quinn. “They are both terrific people and worked very hard and tirelessly for this organization,” owner Sheila Ford Hamp said the day of the firing, according to ESPN. “It just clearly wasn’t working and it wasn’t what we had hoped for when we hired them, and so I don’t know if there was an exact moment. It was something that we had been thinking about for several weeks and going back and forth and deciding.”

Darrell Bevell was named interim head coach

When Matt Patricia was let go by the Detroit Lions last month, the team promoted offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to interim head coach. Bevell has 14 years of experience as an offensive coordinator and was named coach to fill out the season for the remaining five games. He has never been a head coach at any level.

Bevell wanted a change in Detroit. He wanted the players to come in refreshed as if it was a new beginning. It’s been a tough year for the Lions and for the NFL in general, playing during a pandemic. He said he was ready for the challenge.

“It’s obviously been a difficult year, whether you’re talking about the COVID-19 pandemic, all the other stuff that’s happening around the world, the way the season is going,” Bevell said, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. “But I told them, ‘The game doesn’t care.’ I’m asking the guys to come in with a refreshed attitude, ready to work, No. 1, but ready to have a good time, (too) — and let them play with their hair on fire. Let them play fast; let them play free. We’ll worry about the end result at the end.”

Robert Prince taking over Lions coaching duties Saturday

On Thursday, the Detroit Lions announced their interim head coach, Darrell Bevell, would not be able to coach Saturday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Because of COVID-19 protocols, Bevell is forced to sit this one out. The sudden change moves wide receivers coach Robert Prince into the head coaching role, forcing a re-shuffling of the coaching staff.

Prince, who also has never been a head coach at any level, doesn’t have the most glorified resume that most head coaches have. He was the offensive coordinator at Fort Lewis College from 1994-95. Prince coached in the Japanese X League from 1996-97 before moving on to Portland State. He also coached at Boise State from 2012-13 and was the passing coordinator at Colorado in 2010. He’s been with the Lions since 2014 when former head coach Jim Caldwell brought him in.

According to ESPN, Bevell will still get credit for Saturday’s game. The game will not go on Prince’s head-coaching record, according to ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau.