Detroit Lions and The Paradigm Of Predictability
I purposely held off posting an article on the Lions this week. I did not wish to fall prey to my propensity for testosterone laden rants on the heels of another Lions loss.
While those rants serve the purpose of bringing my “Chi” back into some semblance of balance for a few days, they are an otherwise useless exercise in tabloid entertainment.
The news on the Lions front is grim. It’s not going to get any better any time soon with games at Green Bay, and a visit by a rejuvenated Rams team who must view the Lions as extremely vulnerable.
When I ponder exercises in futility, I reminisce upon my twelve weeks of Officer’s Candidate School, and the brutal selection process that the USMC employs in culling a class of 40 candidates down to eight officer billets.
The OCS program was not a competition between candidates. It was a series of exercises and field problems that were unsolvable. That’s right, failure was the only option in every situation.
What then, were the criteria for success? How could OCS candidates be quantifiably analyzed and rated against their peers, who were also failing spectacularly?
They weren’t quantifiably rated.
The Corps’ rationale was simple, and elegant. They identified those who demonstrated intrinsic leadership qualities, the ability to adapt to impossible situations, and the will to win in spite of grueling weeks of abject failure.
Many candidates were dropped on request (DOR‘d). They simply quit. Others were too injured to continue.
There was no stigma attached to those who left the program, and they were actually good Marines with whom I proudly served.
All candidates had demonstrated academic achievement, and had excelled in basic training. The playing field was even. The most athletically gifted candidates had no real advantage over their less physically gifted classmates.
The real test was in your individual ability to motivate yourself, and those with whom you were teamed up even though the outcome of the exercise was preordained to fail.
OCS was the ultimate test of your fundamental beliefs, your self-worth, and your adaptability. Those who held themselves in high esteem were quickly identified, and punished until they ultimately DOR’d.
Egocentric officers kill Marines.
Twelve weeks of unrelenting failure, and the incessant cajoling of the instructors who did everything possible to convince us that we were unworthy to lead Marines.
Of the 40 original candidates, 11 completed the program. We were told going into OCS that no more than eight billets would be filled from this class. When we 11 survivors were informed that we had all made the cut, the sense of relief was staggering.
What makes my anecdote relevant to a discussion about the Lions?
Week after week of unrelenting failure. The kind of failure that calls into question the beliefs of the most ardent fans.
The frustration we feel at the apparent failure of the coaching staff to put an imaginative offense on the field, or build blocking schemes designed to keep the franchise QB from being injured.
The frustration we feel at the rationalizations of the head coach, who steadfastly insists that his decision to not strike into the end zone was correct, even if Joe Montana was at the helm.
The frustration we feel when the defensive coordinator fails to optimize the skills of, arguably, one of the best front fours in the game.
If one looks closely, you will begin to see an emerging pattern on defense. Static, and very Predictable.
The paradigm of predictability on defense is actually a trademark of Jim Schwartz. While he was the defensive coordinator in Tennessee, Schwartz was assailed for his intransigent scheme.
The defensive scheme has defensive linemen playing the same gaps on every down. This allows offensive linemen to gain confidence as a game progresses.
Minnesota had trouble with the Miami defense because Miami moved the defensive ends well wide of the offensive edges, and brought the cornerbacks up to the line of scrimmage. This forced Brett Favre into holding the ball longer, and kept him in the pocket.
The anonymous blogger points to Schwartz’ analytical approach to coaching defense, and the rigidity in his defensive scheme.
Schwartz never allows his defensive players the option of changing their assignment as a play develops.
This equates to a lack of trust. If you don’t trust your defensive leadership on the field, you will lose them.
The above link reeks of familiarity, doesn’t it? The Lions are the 30th ranked defense, and are ranked dead last against the run. This is roughly the same results that Schwartz was getting with the Titans.
How does this occur when the talent has been so vastly upgraded? One can argue intelligently that penalties and injuries have taken a toll on a team bereft of depth.
The Lions are not as heavily penalized as teams who win. The Lions are no more banged up than teams who win.
For me, it’s all about the same scheme play after play, and week after week. The Lions defense is easy to scheme against, because rarely do they change it up.
“If you can’t cover em, rush em” -- Gary Danielson
Obviously, the Lions have problems in coverage. Do they dial up more zone blitzing?
Do the defensive linemen shift gaps?
The paradigm of predictability makes an opposing offensive coordinator’s job much easier, and as the game goes on even the worst offensive linemen know what to expect, and gain confidence.
There is little to suggest that if the Lions back seven was a star studded collection of players that the paradigm would shift.
The paradigm of predictability would still doom the Lions.
Mike Sudds is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.
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