Jim Schwartz and Bill Belichick: One in the Same?

October 5, 2009

…Well, of course not. Few coaches in the history of the National Football League have attained the type of success that Billy B has (see: 3 super bowl victories in 4 appearances). So then, you might ask, where can the connection be drawn between the Lions’ first year head coach and the vaunted, sloppily attired Patriots’ boss?

The connection, my friends, is the manner in which Schwartz has gone about cloaking his team’s injuries in what seems like absolute secrecy.

First, when linebacker Ernie Sims went down in week 2 against the Vikings, Schwartz characterized Sims’ shoulder injury as “significant” and though Sims has since returned, nothing of particular interest is known about the extent of his injury.

Shhh...Nobody can know about the severity of my "significant" shoulder injury

Shhh...Nobody can know about the severity of my "significant" shoulder injury

Then, when running back Kevin Smith went down with shoulder and knee injuries against Washington in week 3, Schwartz toyed with the media to the point that few expected him to play much, if at all, against the Bears the following week.

Not only did Smith play, he carried the ball 19 times.

So it should’ve come as no surprise when, after Matt Stafford exited the Lions’ matchup with the Bears, that there was going to be precious little information available about Stafford’s condition.

Which leads us back to the thesis of this entry. Is HC Schwartz patterning his handling of injury reports and the media in a way that mimics the great Belichick, perhaps the most notorious misleader in all of pro sports?

Well, for a guy like Schwartz, who clearly marches to the beat of his own decidedly unique drum, it’s certainly possible that this is all merely a coincidence (although, if Schwartz can turn the Lions around the way Belichick turned the Pats around, it would be quite a welcome coincidence).

In any event, Schwartz’ coyness has opened a few eyes around the league.

As evasiveness with the media for myriad reasons (competitive advantage, general disdain of the media) is on the rise, Schwartz appears to be a new inductee into the current Hall of Fame of Coaching Mystery.

Esteemed Patriots Head Coach, Bill Belichick, may well be an inspiration for the Lions' Jim Schwartz's mysterious ways.

Esteemed Patriots Head Coach, Bill Belichick, may well be an inspiration for the Lions' Jim Schwartz's mysterious ways.

Advertisements

Of Lions and Bears: 5 Reasons For My Disdain of Jay Cutler

October 5, 2009

So one week after the bonanza that was 19-14, the Lions’ defense stayed behind in Detroit as Da Bears routed our Lions, 48-24.

Since the outcome of week 4 was so decidedly un-week 3-like (I miss you, Jason Campbell), I’ve chosen to dedicate this entry to my perfectly rational reasons for strongly disliking Bears’ starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, and not on the disappointment of the Lions’ 1-game winning streak coming to a screeching halt and Matt Stafford’s mysterious knee injury.

So without further ado, here’s to you, Jay Cutler:

Bow down before me, for I have zero playoff victories and an uncontrollable swagger

Bow down before me, for I have zero playoff victories and an uncontrollable swagger

1) You’re unspeakably arrogant. Cutler came from a modest collegiate background, helping to turn perennial SEC doormat, Vanderbilt, into a solid team that would eventually return to bowl game prominence shortly after his departure. So how, do you ask, did Cutler go from a lowly college team to demanding to be traded from the Denver Broncos because he couldn’t stomach the business side of pro football? Well, I’m not really sure, but the way Cutler jilted Broncos’ fans, some of the most loyal in the NFL, and ended up with Da Bears, is truly a shame.

2) You’re supremely talented, but you’re also overrated. Few people with knowledge of pro football will deny that Cutler has some serious skills. The guy can throw the ball a mile, and his accuracy’s not too shabby either. However, the guy hasn’t won ANYTHING yet. He had an above average supporting cast around him for his one partial season and two full seasons in Denver and he didn’t take the Broncos anywhere. As a quarterback in the NFL, no matter how gaudy your statistics are, you’re always going to be judged by the Super Bowl rings on your fingers, not the MVP trophies on your mantle, when all is said and done. Despite his big talk, Cutler’s done little to back it up thus far.

3) You’re from Santa Claus, Indiana. If my hometown was named for a fictional (or is he, little ones?!) character who brings presents to children on Christmas and I’d never won a playoff game, I mean, I probably wouldn’t run my mouth too much, guy.

4) One of the league’s most respected players, Peyton Manning, even tried to kill you once. Okay, maybe he didn’t, but when Manning decided to subject Cutler to a little Pro Bowl trickery and threw what he thought was Cutler’s cell phone into a pool, many bystanders were surprised to learn shortly thereafter that what Manning believed was a cell phone lying at the bottom of the pool was actually Cutler’s insulin pump (Cutler’s diabetic). Sure, maybe it was Manning and friends initiating Cutler into the Pro Bowl fraternity, but maybe, just maybe, Manning and friends are onto your arrogant ways and like me, they don’t like it one bit.

5) For the first time in your four-year career, you beat the Lions. 18-28, 141 yards through the air, 8 yards on the ground. Certainly not eye-popping numbers, to be sure, but two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, and a big, fat, NFC North W to boot make Cutler’s performance a strong one. A two-game winning streak would’ve been so sweet. Thanks a lot, Jay.

So to summarize, Jay Cutler’s time in Chicago will likely play a crucial role in how he’s remembered as an NFL player. Can he win the big one? Can he avoid controversy?

Well, however things shake out for you, Jay, you’re going to have to do an awful lot for me to shift my opinion.

644 Days Later: A Triumph to Remember

September 28, 2009

(Courtesy, Detroit News)

19-14. It was by no means the prettiest NFL game ever played. Heck, it wasn’t even available on local t.v. to those who have, for better or worse, bled Honolulu blue and silver for so many hapless years.

Of course, some national pundits forecasted week 3 as the Lions’ time to return to the winners’ circle. Even Washington Redskins’ mammoth defensive tackle, Albert Haynesworth, saw the Lions as a dangerous challenge that he wouldn’t overlook (or so he claimed).

After all was said and done, though, nothing could take away from the pure, unadulterated joy that came about from this victory.

I think I can confidently speak for many ardent Lions’ supporters, that, when the final whistle blew after the Redskins’ bizarre hook-and-ladder prayer foundered (found at about 4:20 of the video below), a tension was released that had played such a prominent role in our lives for what seemed like an eternity.

I, myself, began shouting unintelligible things and pumping my fists uncontrollably, as I sat alone in my room, flanked by my Lions’ banner, savoring the unfamiliar.

 

Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom penned an excellent take on Lions’ victory #1.

Yahoo! national sports columnist Dan Wetzel’s article is equally moving.

 

The Lions' longest-tenured player, kicker Jason Hanson, and teammates Grady Jackson and Don Muhlbach (from l to r) celebrate wins fans (courtesy Detroit Free Press)

The Lions' longest-tenured player, kicker Jason Hanson, and teammates Grady Jackson and Don Muhlbach (from l to r) celebrate with fans (courtesy Detroit Free Press)

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the Lions’ triumph over the Redskins, came when HC Schwartz instructed his players to return to the field to celebrate with the remaining fans of what was initially a 40,000 person crowd (the smallest to attend a Lions’ home game in 20 years). After so much suffering and so much dejection associated with the second-longest losing streak in NFL history, Schwartz felt the fans needed to know just how much his team appreciated their dedication.

So now, the Lions have broken through. 

At 1-2 and headed to Soldier Field next Sunday to take on the NFC North rival Chicago Bears, the road to end futility has ceased.

Some of us, the greedier ones, will already start thinking about when/where win #2 will materialize. Will we have to wait until week 8, when the new owners of the league’s current longest losing streak, the St. Louis Rams, take on the Lions? Will it be sooner; could it be later?

For now, a new hope has soared to the fore of Lions fans’ collective conscious. 

A new day is upon us.

Sure, in the literal sense, it’s just 1 win. 

But, even if for a fleeting moment, it feels like so much more.

 

 

When Good Fans Go Bad: Lions’ Fans Square Off In The Stands In A Battle For The Ages

September 25, 2009

When your team has lost 19 consecutive games, sometimes it’s not hard to see why fans’ level of frustration seems, well, elevated, compared to those who cheer for more functional franchises around the NFL.

Take those 19 losses, dwindling fan attendance, and general discontent in the ranks of the Lions’ faithful, combine that with a few too many cold ones, and this, my friends, is what you get (disclaimer: the language in this video is coarse, so coarse) :

You see, this kind of behavior isn’t all that surprising, but it’s just so entertaining!

It isn’t too clear how this epic verbal/briefly physical war began, but you really find yourself identifying with the characters involved.

From the sympathetic friends, to the unsympathetic nearby fans (re: the guy who comes bounding over from the section to the left to politely offer his two cents), to the guys chanting, “Jerry, Jerry!” this video truly has something for everyone.

I guess it’s true, though. Sometimes the best things in life are free.

 

Lions Vice Chairman, William Clay Ford Jr., has helped put a product on the field that drives his normally affable fans to attack each other

Lions' Vice Chairman, William Clay Ford Jr., has helped put a product on the field that drives his normally affable fans to attack each other

Ernie Sims is out Sunday: What now?

September 23, 2009

To those who haven’t heard, Ernie Sims, the de facto leader of the Lions’ defense, will almost certainly miss Sunday’s clash with the Redskins and perhaps beyond.

Sims, who was injured Sunday against the Vikings, has what HC Schwartz and co. are describing as a “significant shoulder injury.”

 

Is Ernie Sims' shoulder injury as significant as this glowing skeleton's?

Is Ernie Sims' shoulder injury as significant as this glowing skeleton's?

Obviously, this could be a major blow to the Lions’ already porous defense.

If Sims is to miss an extended period of time, the fallback options are 2008 2nd round pick Jordon Dizon and rookie D’Andre Levy.

Prospective Replacement #1: Jordon Dizon

Dizon, who would’ve been a mid-round pick on any functional team’s draft board, recorded just 12 tackles in his rookie season.

Prior to his forgettable 2008 season, Dizon had neglected to inform Lions’ brass that he had picked up a good ‘ol D.U.I. a mere 6 days before he was to be drafted (not that character concerns ever scared the Lions’ old regime off anyway).

Through 2 games this season, Dizon’s recorded 2 tackles. I mean, that’s like, 1 tackle a game! But with Sims sidelined, this former Colorado Buffalo will have a golden opportunity to see the first extended playing time of his young career.

This second-year player finally has a chance to shine, provided he secures a sober ride on Saturday nights

This second-year player finally has a chance to shine, provided he secures a sober ride on Saturday nights

Prospective Replacement #2: D’Andre Levy

Levy, who is a bit more physically suited to play MLB than Dizon (Levy is listed at 6’3 228 lbs. to Dizon’s 6’0 225 lbs.), was a 3rd rd. pick out of the University of Wisconsin this past April.

Levy’s quick (re: low 40-yd. dash time of 4.47) and heady (he’s capable of playing all 3 linebacker positions and has/will see plenty of action on the legendary Stan Kwon’s special teams.

Statistically, Levy has recorded a Dizon-esque 2 tackles this season (for those of you keeping score at home, that’s 4 tackles for the Dizon/Levy combo and 14 for Ernie Sims).

Although Levy is largely untested, he’ll likely see at least 50% of the snaps at MLB on Sunday against the ‘Skins and their increasingly disenchanted fans.

The Conclusion

Focusing only on Sunday, the loss of Ernie Sims is clearly tough to swallow for Lions fans. 

However, Lions’ faithful will see two recent high draft picks this weekend, playing in the friendly confines of beautiful Ford Field and against the woefully inept offense of the Washington Redskins.

Forward down the field!

And because you won’t get your fill this weekend, here’s 5ish minutes worth of collegiate Ernie Sims steamrolling his “competition.”

Matt Stafford’s our guy, but should he be?

September 22, 2009

As the Lions practice this week, already in an 0-2 hole that involved one crushing defeat and one NFC North defeat at the hands of Judas Favre, HC Jim Schwartz has already had to go on the defensive about the decision to anoint Matt Stafford as the team’s starting quarterback.

This, of course, leads to the inevitable question: Should a team, coming off the worst season in NFL history, be starting a rookie quarterback?

matthew-stafford-drafted-by-the-detroit-lions

There are 72 million reasons why this man should be protected at all costs

 Here’s where things get a little, well, complicated

 On the one hand, the Lions’ other options aren’t all that enticing.

 Daunte Culpepper, a quarterback who I’ve always really admired, has been too beaten down by injury (in some cases, carpet-related injuries) to be the answer. He hasn’t managed to play in more than 7 games since ’04 (not ironically, his last effective season as a QB).

Drew Stanton, one of the unfathomable number of former GM’s (he who shall not be named, ever, in these pages) failed draft picks, has also been unable to shake the injury bug and, in limited action, hasn’t proven that he can be a QB on this level.

On the other hand, the Lions decided to make an unprecedented investment in their franchise quarterback of the future and thus, they have to be extremely careful not to physically or mentally scar their most expensive player.

 

Can Stafford avoid becoming like this infamous, piano-playing former Lion?

Can Stafford avoid becoming like this infamous, piano-playing former Lion?

So, you might ask, what’s the verdict here?

Certainly, Bobby Layne isn’t going to emerge from the shadows and lace up his cleats. Not even Scott Mitchell, who sadly has become the contemporary model of success for the Lions, is going to ride in on a white horse and save the day.

Bereft of Lions’ “greats” (and, aside from Layne, I use that term quite loosely), HC Schwartz is going to have to play Stafford. The other options are simply fillers and, by all accounts, it seems like Stafford is mentally capable of handling the grind of leading a losing team in his first NFL season.

So, although it would’ve been ideal to have Stafford learn from the sidelines for a season, at this point, he’s receiving the rare opportunity to learn on the job.

Although he’s certainly looked like a rookie at times (re: 1:5 TD/INT ratio through 2 games), if the Lions’ makeshift O-Line can keep him relatively unscathed, he should have the opportunity to flourish sooner rather than later.

It's only a matter of time before this off-the-field success is joined by on-the-field glory

It's only a matter of time before this off-the-field success is joined by on-the-field glory

Eric King: A Quarterback’s Best Pal

September 17, 2009

When Eric King awoke the morning of Sunday Sept. 13, he knew he’d have the rare honor of starting in an NFL season opener, an honor that came about only after a late injury to  fellow Lions newcomer, Phil Buchanon

King could likely feel the excitement, the trepidation, the eagerness associated with having the chance to be an integral part of a brilliant defensive scheme that could fluster the great New Orleans gunslinger, Drew Brees. Maybe King would even make an appearance on SportsCenter’s ballyhooed Top 10 plays of the day segment!

Well, ladies and gents, King made his way onto SportsCenter all right. 

If you watch the highlights from week one’s 45-27 drubbing, you’ll see good ‘ol #29, our very own Eric King, in the vicinity of more than one of Drew Brees’ 6 touchdown passes.

Sometimes he’s reaching a hand up, only to have the ball sail mere inches over it. Sometimes he’s joining a cadre of defensive backs in pursuit of a pass-catcher already well on his way to another 6 points. If only King could play the corner back position like he tears into a ladder drill, then we might really be onto something!

Now this isn’t to say that King was the only Lion responsible for the defensive turmoil of week 1, but after watching the Saints carve up the Lions’ secondary in an almost laughable fashion, someone has to take the heat.

King was put in an impossible, albeit correctable position, that was wholly unlikely to result in success.

He won’t be starting in week two and heck, maybe the rest of the defense will continue to be exposed without King in a starting role. However, in a one-week starting gig, King played a central role in the memories of ’08 returning earlier than I would have hoped.

Sometimes, only the Onion truly understands the plight of those poor, less fortunate souls.

18 and counting, on the hunt for respectability and poised to capture elusive victory #1.

Forward down the field!

Hello world!

September 3, 2009

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!