I was supposed to be preparing a preview of the Detroit Lions vs. the Dallas Cowboys. But, an idea popped into my head, and would not leave me alone.
It stalked me.
It shook me, and brought back memories that I would rather just forget. It’s relevance, however, was so compelling that I needed to share it with you.
So, with apologies to my Bleacher Report boss, and to you, let's do this!
The question is simple: What is the difference between being a losing team who is competitive, and a winning team?
As I pondered this question, I called upon my own experiences for some insight.
Leading a platoon of Marines during the Tet offensive of 1968, it was a FUBAR situation.
Poor communications, worse logistics, and zero support. We were, for all intents and purposes, marooned.
The thing that made the difference was the certain knowledge that we had implicit trust in one another, and that somehow, we would impose our will, and win.
Having been recently reminded of Chesty Puller’s remark at Chosin Reservoir during the Korean war, I thought that it would be germane to repeat it here:
“We’re surrounded. Good. That simplifies the problem.”
General Puller realized that he could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by imposing his will. Pick a direction and impose your will.
The breakout at Chosin reservoir would save the lives of over 40,000 starving, freezing grunts who were low on ammo and morale.
For his decisiveness, General Chesty Puller was awarded his fourth Navy Cross. A unique accomplishment.
Imposing our will. Hmm. What a concept!
My thesis is simple.
The difference between being a losing team that is competitive, and a winning team is this:
The Lions must have the level of trust in their teammates and coaches that fortifies them. Makes them focused. Makes them disciplined. Makes them ferocious.
The Lions must impose their will over opponents at every opportunity in order to become a winner.
When Calvin Johnson is covered by Darrell Revis, the Lions must impose their will. They must simply win these key personnel matchups.
The Lions coaching staff chose to play it cozy, and stopped challenging Revis. This is the oft repeated flaw in the Lions game plans. They fail to impose their will.
When it seems that the Lions have an opponent on the ropes, do they stomp em?
Lets be clear about this. The concept of imposing your will upon your opponents is the cornerstone of winning. To imply that the Lions' talent level does not support such thinking is absurd.
It’s a losers lament.
Look at the Cleveland Browns. They have gotten in the face of the best teams in the NFL, and punched them in the nose. With a third string rookie quarterback, no less.
This is the biggest challenge of head coach Jim Schwartz, and his staff. The schematic correctness must give way to discipline, and coaching a mind set that this Lions team will not be dominated.
Hell, my Lance Corporals had a clear understanding of this concept, and I would have trusted them implicitly in important leadership positions.
“It’s not a matter of having the game in your head, it’s about having your head in the game.”
-- Master Gunnery Sgt G.O. Rilla, USMC
We will impose our will! We will control the line of scrimmage! We will dominate your best players! We will punch you in the mouth!
We will win!
This is the message that Schwartz, the scholarly, but seemingly detached head coach had better start preaching in an up-close, in your face style.
Competing is not winning.
Winning is imposing your will.
Mike Sudds is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.