Allen Park — There was a theme to the Detroit Lions' first wave of free-agency signings this week, a thread that could be traced all the way to Foxborough. For better or worse, the team is stocking its cupboards with former New England Patriots.
New slot receiver Danny Amendola played in New England for five seasons. Cornerback Justin Coleman, who blossomed in Seattle the past two years, played the previous two in, well, you guessed it. And defensive end Trey Flowers, the crown jewel of Detroit's free-agency haul, has only known one home during his four-year career.
This isn't nepotism so much as comfort in familiarity. Amendola, Coleman and Flowers are all proven commodities who appropriately filled roster holes in Detroit.
And their signings signify something else — Lions coach Matt Patricia isn't scaring players away from coming to Detroit. In fact, it shows those who know him best, who have worked with him extensively in the past, are drawn to work with him again.
"He taught me a lot of things, developed me," Flowers said. "I developed through his system of doing things. So, he's just a great guy to work for. Obviously he demands a high standard of excellence from his players, and when you get someone who can challenge you like that, day in and day out, you're going to just continue to get better. Those are the types of guys you want to play for, because you know they're expecting high (things) of you."
During Patricia's first season, a disappointing 6-10 campaign, there was plenty out there to suggest the transition from the previous regime wasn't going as smoothly as hoped. Away from the microphones and television cameras, a handful of veterans privately grumbled about the intensity of practices or Patricia's tendency to launch into a curse-laden tirades on the practice field.
This wasn't strictly a media-driven narrative. In a poll of anonymous agents conducted by Sports Illustrated, Detroit was voted as the fourth-least desirable places to play. One agent highlighted Patricia's Belichick-ian attitude in his reasoning.
And for those who had been here before Patricia, his approach was unquestionably a culture shock compared to Jim Caldwell's tenure. The team still worked hard under Caldwell, but practices weren't nearly as contact-heavy, and the two coaches have polar opposite approaches to correcting players' on-field mistakes. Patricia is more of a drill sergeant, Caldwell, more fatherly.
But for every player who found Patricia's style abrasive last year, most weren't fazed and some loved it. As veteran safety Glover Quin pointed out, rarely are you going to find uniform opinion in an NFL locker room.
But a team can snuff out those who don't buy in and replace them with those who do.
"Obviously it's a tough league, and in order to be successful, you got to be tough," Flowers said. "It can't be comfortable. Just coming in, the organization that I came from -- the Patriots organization -- just seeing that atmosphere, understanding where coach Patricia came from, and obviously I got an understanding of what it takes and how it's done and things like that."
This offseason, while about injecting talent like any other, is also about furthering the envisioned culture by finding those who embrace Patricia's methods. By the time this offseason is complete, the roster will be close to two-thirds different from the time Patricia hired in.