Sep 8, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz during the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions: Attitude Reflects Leadership

Dear Coach Schwartz,

Let me first begin by saying that I appreciate what you’ve done for the city of Detroit and the Lions organization during your tenure. You took over the reins of a team coming off a league-record 0-16 season and have fielded competitive teams since.

However, while watching your postgame press conference on Sunday and your Monday presser, I realized that there are a few questions and coaching behaviors I’d like you to address.

Ndamukong Suh and Louis Delmas committed personal foul penalties on separate plays in the 34-24 season opening win over the Vikings. Suh, as I am sure you are aware, has been fined $100,000 for his low hit on Minnesota center John Sullivan, while Delmas was flagged for what appeared to be trash talking on the Vikings sideline. When asked about it afterward, you reacted in a very defensive manner. You actually failed to address that your team’s penalties amounted to 5 fewer yards than Adrian Peterson ran for on the day.

“I’m not (going to) apologize for any win. We won this football game. There (were) a lot of positives in this game. We were resilient, we played hard, we played physical, and we went out and beat a playoff team at home in the opener, and I’m not (going to) apologize for anything this team did.”

Coach, in one of my favorite movies of all time, Remember the Titans, there’s a scene where Julius Campbell and Gerry Bertier are talking. After Gerry finishes telling Julius what a terrible attitude he has, Julius replies with one of the greatest lines of all time: “Attitude reflects leadership.” The attitude of carelessness and disregard for authority often displayed on the field by your team certainly reflects your perceived image, Coach.

After Suh committed his penalty, he came to the sideline and explained his side of the story. He was hesitant to hit Sullivan high for fear of a fine, so he went for his hips and missed. Not surprisingly, you made more excuses for Suh in your press conference, pointing out that “it wasn’t very far behind the play” and essentially condoning not only his actions, but his excuse afterward.

You also later gave an excuse for the penalty on Delmas.

“He was going over there to stand up for a rookie who was all by himself on their sideline, but you’ve just got to go grab your guy and get him out of there.”

Attitude reflects leadership, Coach.

If you’ll allow me to be really honest with you though, Coach, those aren’t the things that really bother me. What really bothers me is the very small piece of the big picture you seem to see with these penalties. Your comments on the Suh penalty included this: “It’s a penalty, and it cost us a touchdown in that situation.” You later elaborated, saying “the biggest thing, in my mind, was taking some momentum away from us at that point, and also taking that score off the board.”

Really, Coach? The “biggest thing” is lost momentum and a lost score? Ndamukong Suh was named a team captain prior to the week one game, and subsequently called a players-only meeting to encourage his teammates to avoid mental mistakes and penalties. While a touchdown is important, and often can be the difference between a win and a loss, isn’t there a bigger point being missed? How is the biggest thing not the example being set on the field by your leaders? You are caught up on such a little part of the big picture – winning the game – that you fail to realize that you’ll never be a consistent playoff team until you and your players grow up and stop the mental mistakes. Your long-term success here in Detroit hinges on your ability to create a culture of discipline and responsibility to the team.

Now this isn’t to excuse Ndamukong Suh or any other player for his actions. There is certainly personal responsibility involved and some personal growth needs to happen. But perhaps this is simply an outsider’s perspective. Perhaps you have a different attitude behind closed doors. However, with every personal foul, with every undisciplined mistake, I believe that we see the real Schwartz more and more on a daily basis.

Attitude reflects leadership, Coach Schwartz.


Aaron Meckes

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  • David Guerra

    I dont even know what to say about this. This is one of the best “letters to the coach” that I have read. Honestly you should put this in an envelope and certify mail this to Schwartz. When I watch the games it makes me so mad when the players make these stupid ass penalties. But what makes me even more pissed off is watching Schwartz and Cunningham sit there like a bunch of idiots not doing a damn thing about it. Great job on this, I just hope the right man sees it.

    • aaronmeckes

      Thank you, appreciate the kind words.

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  • Herman Moore

    Maybe Schwartz is tired of answering these stupid questions? His team just snapped an eight game losing streak and beat a division opponent for the first time since 2011, while virtually shutting down the reigning league MVP, but all anyone wants to talk about is a penalty for a block that was legal until this season. Oh, and playing by Miss Manners rules is overrated. The most penalized team in the league last season was the SB champion Ravens. You guys really should offer something more than recycled talking points from ESPN. Game analysis would be nice…

    • aaronmeckes

      Thanks for reading. You’re right, the Lions earned a big win and deserve praise for that. I, like you, hope it’s a sign of bigger and better things to come. Like I mentioned in my article though, this game is just one small piece of the puzzle. That’s great that the Ravens were the most penalized team last year, but it’s not the penalties that I am addressing. Rather, the lack of focus, mental mistakes, and seemingly immature attitudes that lead to penalties are my concern. I’m a firm believer that attitude plays a large role in success, and until we begin to see these things change, I’m scared that we’ll be haunted by plays like the ones we saw Sunday. Appreciate your comments!