The NFL Football season is well on its way to the home stretch of December. The final games of the regular season will now be played while knowing it is mathematically impossible for the Lions to make the playoffs, but this team is not done fighting.
Even though playoffs were something I believed this team could accomplish at the start of the season, and they played no where near that level this year, I am still encouraged by the play of the Detroit Lions. There are a few things that need to improve, and for the first time, I’m not just going to critique the players.
The Lions of 2010 have been an intriguing team to say the least. But to say "it just wasn't in the cards for the Detroit Lions" would be a massive understatement. From the start of the season it has seemed like there was always something, often external, willing the Lions to lose.
Week 1 against the Chicago Bears will go down in infamy for the "lack of possession throughout the catch" call. Jim Schwartz was silent, though, and did not complain about the call in Chicago.
Finally Coach Schwartz has come out, however sarcastically to the press, and vented about what he sees as poor calls being made by the referees on Lions players, but not other players of other teams.
I have to agree with Schwartz on this too, the penalties called against the Lions do seem unjustly levied in many cases as I watch the Lions games each week. I like to think I'm a very objective sports enthusiast though, especially about football.
For example, yesterday while watching the Michigan/Ohio State game, I watched the referee flag an Ohio State receiver for excessive celebration for diving into the end zone on a play where there were two Wolverine defenders right next to the Buckeye that could have made a play to stop him from crossing the plane of the end zone.
I threw my arms up in the air and said, "that was a bad call", even though I am not a fan of Ohio State. But it was still a bad call.
However, even though Schwartz has ended his silence with his personal disagreement with the refereeing decisions being made, he has to realize that simply saying sarcastically in a press conference that he didn't approve of or appreciate some of the calls that were made is not going to solve this problem.
This problem goes much deeper (within the Lions) than that. Outside of his sarcastic comments, and joking about this to the press, that is about the only thing he can do externally and publicly without risking retaliation by Roger Goodell and the NFL.
Furthermore, if I were Schwartz and that was truly how I felt about the way games were being officiated, I would come to the conclusion that we have to compensate for this injustice by making less mistakes.
I’m talking about not having to slap my forehead when Corey Williams encroaches in the neutral zone yet again. Schwartz has publicly said "when you try to get off the ball to get after the quarterback, you’re going to have some false starts" which I believe is very untrue.
Is he trying to imply that teams who are not getting encroachment zone infractions are simply not bothering to rush the quarterback? Do you think Atlanta (the NFL's least penalized team) has decided to abandon the pass rush?
Warren Sapp himself said this is false logic and sited his own Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers as having a ferocious pass rush, but very few offsides calls.
This is a mistake that Williams needs to fix, because nearly every single one of these penalties have been on him. Rather than making excuses for Williams because of his performance on other aspects of his game, Schwartz needs to identify this problem and correct it.
I’m talking about not having to slap my head again when Stephen Peterman gets flagged again for chipping/chop blocking/false start. Again, this is a problem of technique, which is coaching, not the referee. This is a problem with Peterman and Schwartz needs to correct it.
It’s a simple known fact that playing a good clean game of football makes it easier to win games. When you get penalized 9.6 times per game, there is a problem with your coaching somewhere. I don't care how Jim Schwartz wants to rationalize it. It’s a known fact that coaches can and do impact the type of play and total penalties of a team.
Some coaches do a very good job of reducing a teams penalties.
Currently, the Lions are giving up 75-100 yards in most games. That's like handing your opponent a touchdown.
It most certainly doesn't help a team struggling to win, and that should be obvious.
This is a personal cry from a Detroit Lions fan to Schwartz. These are errors, accept it. The good news is they are correctable. Quit being the nice-guy "players coach" and use your coaching abilities to persuade your players not to make these mistakes while still performing at a high level. It's your job, get it done!
Granted, some of the plays getting called are very questionable, but if you want to change perceptions, first you have to change your reality.
Start with your players. When they really play clean, the officiating crews will take note and you will grow to no longer be the predictably penalized team.