There’s a notion floating around right now that Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz has lost his team.
The Lions are mired in a league-high six-game losing streak and there are external accusations of apathy.
According to some, the team has quit and is tuning out their coach.
These assumptions come with no merit, are not based on any tangible evidence and are an inaccurate assessment of the Lions current situation.
“There is no way in the world that this team, this organization, we’ve quit,” said defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill. “People have their own suggestions and they make their own mind up and they put their words out there and what they think about us but as you see, if you go watch 60 minutes of our game every week, we come playing no matter what. We don’t feed into all that ‘we quit’ because when it all boils down, the eye in the sky don’t lie. They just have to actually watch the game instead of just making comments.”
Hill points to the film as proof to the team’s commitment to Schwartz and Co. as well as one another, and he does make a compelling argument.
The Lions most recent loss, a lopsided contest against the Arizona Cardinals, is the igniter for much of “quitting” allegations. However, an actual study of the occurrences in that game shows the exact opposite.
The team didn’t give up, in fact, they tried to do too much.
The four turnovers in this game were by far and away the biggest reason the Lions lost, and the three on offense all came when quarterback Matthew Stafford was trying to force a play.
All three interceptions came after frustrating offensive penalties that put the Lions behind on down and distance. The first occurred after a false start by offensive lineman Riley Reiff, the second occurred after a false start by offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus and the third occurred after a delay of game penalty wiped out a touchdown.
“It’s trying to make a play,” said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. “It’s down a couple scores, you’ve got to make a play on fourth down. Every one of our turnovers last week came after a very frustrating penalty, so you were trying to get back on track. If we stay ahead in those situations then we don’t back ourselves up. It takes a little less pressure or puts a little less pressure on the quarterback to have to make a play.”
The first turnover of the game came when cornerback Pat Lee was blocked into return man Stefan Logan during a punt return. This caused a fumble and gave the Cardinals the ball in scoring position. Again, not a situation where Lee quit, a situation where he would have been better off releasing his guy and allowing Logan to simply call for a fair catch.
The long touchdown run by running back Beanie Wells to close the scoring – a 31-yard scamper – didn’t feature Lions players standing around watching, it featured players getting out of their gaps as they attempted to do too much.
“When you don’t do little things, that touchdown run, that’s what happens,” said cornerback Chris Houston “In this league, you make one wrong mistake, people can go the distance. Throughout the season, if we gave up on a lot of games, we would be getting blown out in games. If you go back and see… we fought every game we were in.”
Simply put, the evaluation of a coach that has lost the locker room and a team that isn’t trying is a cop out. These are accusations that stem from an assumption based on poor record combined with a very small group of players that have had off field issues, not from actual film review or investigative work.
The Lions are 4-10, so fans have every right to be upset and pundits have every right to be critical. With that said, it is not fair to perpetuate a notion that is far from accurate.
The Lions haven’t quit. The coach hasn’t lost the team.