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
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.