Dec 8, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz along the sidelines during the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Lions 34-20. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The game started in a blizzard with conditions so bad the fans could barely see what was going on. By the end of the game, the snow had stopped and the picture was clear to all of us. It looks like the Lions are going to be looking for a new head coach when this season is over. At one point in the second half, the Lions were up 14-0 and looking like they were ready to put the game away. The Lions get a couple of really, really bad calls against them and the next thing you know, the Eagles are up two touchdowns and having a great time running and romping around in the snow like little kids having the greatest times of their lives at the Lions expense–again
One of the best sports sayings I remember is from the late great Chuck Daly, who said that a team will only listen, really invest themselves in the coach’s philosophy, for about seven years before they tune him out. He won’t last that long here. It’s year five in the Schwartz regime, and he’s in danger of having his team slide out of first place when the division is doing everything it can to give him the title. The Bears and Packers have been without their starting QB’s for a month now, and the Vikings don’t even have a starting QB, yet the Lions have lost three of the last four games and could be in the middle of an epic meltdown.
The same problems keep happening over and over again, and they seem so ingrained in the culture of this team that it looks like the only way to change the course of this team is to change the head coach. Yes, the conditions were terrible, but the Eagles had to play in the same snow that the Lions did. Sure, they’re an outdoor team, but they have the same amount of experience in blizzard-like conditions that the Lions had up until that point: None. The Lions fumbled the ball seven times, the Eagles once. They blew another fourth quarter lead, the third loss in a row in that fashion. Six of their nine penalties came in the fourth quarter. The Lions turn the ball over so much, Las Vegas is going start putting up over/under on how many fumbles the Lions have on game day.
After Ed Hochuli missed the call because he was admiring his biceps and not looking at the play, he threw a flag on Nick Fairley because he’s Nick Fairley, and the Lions fell to pieces. As stand-out linebacker DeAndre Levy said, we were “mentally and physically soft”. Remember the days of Chuck Daly’s Bad Boys? Nobody got screwed out of more calls than when the Pistons overtook the Celtics and Lakers back in the late 80’s. They never let that stop them. They would grit their teeth and bear down even harder until they succeeded. This Lions team is light years away from being mentioned in the same breath as those guys.
Jim Schwartz can still save his job–it’s still not too late–but it has to change now. They absolutely have to win the division. Then, and it’s a big “then”, they have to win a playoff game. If the Lions somehow blow this opportunity to win the division, then the Fords have no choice. If he does win the division, but loses the playoff game, then he’s gone also. This team is far too talented for those exits.
We’re all thinking the same thing. Maybe a more disciplined coach can take them to the next level? Maybe this team will rise up and surprise me and save Schwartz’s job? I hope so. I’ve just seen the opposite happen too many times before.