How scouting trips as Patriots will benefit Bob Quinn, Matt Patricia with Lions

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- They would get into the rental car together, paired up by New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and sent on the road to watch a bunch of prospects. For part of an offseason, the two were bonded together with a goal of learning how each other operated.

Bob Quinn saw how Matt Patricia evaluated a prospect and taught defense. Patricia watched how Quinn scouted. This led to many conversations about players -- both in the NFL and those hoping to be drafted -- to understand what was valued as they searched for fits for the organization.

Through those flights and trips they would sometimes go through four-to-six prospects a day, grinding through players and evaluations to eventually give back to their boss, Belichick.

"That's when you really start rolling those ideas, but it helped you through the evaluation process, being able to understand what was important to look at, what was important to talk about and what really made a difference and what didn't, you know?" Patricia told ESPN this month. "I'm not saying when you went on the road and met with different people in scouting or coaching that you all agreed. Some guys may have said, 'That's not really important.'

"I'll tell you what, Bob and I, we saw things very similar. Saw things very much the same way. That's when you really start to feel like, 'This guy gets it. He gets what I'm looking at.' He may not agree, which is fine, but at least you have a base understanding of what you're looking at. You have to have a starting point."

The roots of what Quinn as GM and Patricia as head coach are trying to build with the Detroit Lions were planted on those road trips. Now, instead of making their evaluations and passing them along to their boss, they are making the final decisions.

Patricia and his staff have been in Michigan almost two weeks. With the NFL combine a week away and free agency less than three weeks from opening, the Lions have to start putting together their plan for this offseason.

That, Quinn said, should happen this week. It would give the new coaches time to immerse themselves in film of Detroit's 2017 season and evaluate players the Lions have coming back and their own pending free agents. Quinn has had his evaluations done for a while now -- after all, there was a long stretch of time when Detroit knew who it was going to hire but couldn't make the move.

But before discussing it with Patricia, he wanted to allow his new head coach to form his own opinions. Then they will sit down as a staff and start to figure everything out. Those conversations, Quinn said, will happen "at length."

"When we come together, we can kind of get our minds together going into the combine, week before the combine," Quinn said in an interview with ESPN this month. "'All right, this is what we need this offseason' and kind of get that list together, not just what I think it is, but the coaches, after their film study and their evaluation process, so we can be on the same page."

Neither Quinn nor Patricia would say much in separate interviews about what those needs are going to be. However, Quinn did say he'll be bringing in at least one new running back and that he needs to add defensive pieces to a unit that has features cornerback Darius Slay and safety Glover Quin, and last year's first-round pick, linebacker Jarrad Davis.

Those lengthy meetings should cover every player on the roster. Quinn believes he has a "decent team," but there are clear areas in need of improvement. Those conversations are likely to have a similar feel to what went down in Foxboro when Patricia and Quinn were there.

In Quinn's first two seasons with Detroit, he has valued versatility, flexibility, special teams and has been willing to spend when necessary. Patricia's defenses have been based on exploiting matchups -- his scheme could vary from a 4-3 to a 3-4 -- so it's fair to assume a lot of what Quinn has been putting in place will fit with Patricia's vision.

Quinn has implemented a lot of things he felt were valuable from New England -- how they scout players would be one such aspect -- so the process of understanding each other and what Detroit is looking for should feel familiar.

It also leads to an obvious question. As tied together as Quinn and Patricia are, what happens if they disagree on a player -- be it a prospect or a free agent. Who wins? Quinn mulled the answer for a second before saying "probably me." But he's also realistic about it.

"If it's a big 'I see it this way, you see it that way,' probably going to be like, 'Let's not worry about that player,'" Quinn said. "'Let's go to the next guy.'"

Patricia, when told Quinn said he'll probably have final call on players, laughed.

"Well, there's a lot of process," Patricia said. "I think the good part about it is we'll both be pushing in the right direction and I think that's what's important."

Based on their past, Quinn and Patricia will probably be thinking the same way most of the time.