Monday, November 26, 2012

Jim Schwartz and the NFL: Dumb and Dumber

By Steve Kallas (posted by Rick Morris)

Well, you can’t make this stuff up.  By now you’ve seen the play in Texans-Lions on Thanksgiving: 3rd quarter, Lions up 10, Houston’s Justin Forsett runs it up the middle and gets tackled about seven yards downfield.

Except, according to the officials, despite his elbow and knee touching the ground, he didn’t get tackled.  Forsett gets up and keeps on running for an 81-yard TD.  Lions coach Jim Schwartz throws the red challenge flag and then the Alice-in-Wonderland Through-the NFL-Looking-Glass takes over.

Clearly Forsett was down and, since every scoring play is now reviewed in the NFL, clearly it would be overturned on review.  This is exactly what NFL replay was invented to correct:  an obvious mistake by officials.

But not in today’s NFL.  When a coach challenges a scoring play, not only is it a 15-yard penalty, but also the upcoming review is not allowed to take place.

Talk about the NFL cutting off its nose to spite its face.


It’s hard to believe that an NFL head coach in 2012 could so easily lose his mind and turn a seven-yard run into an 81-yard touchdown.  But that’s exactly what Jim Schwartz did.  We already know that Schwartz is a macho man with a short temper: remember the embarrassing (on both sides) handshake between Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers last year?  What a disgrace.

What did Schwartz say after the game?  “I was so mad that I overreacted.”

You think?

How can you expect a team of players to play and keep their heads and keep their cool when you have a guy like Schwartz on the sidelines.  Emotion is one thing; stupidity quite another.  Maybe that lack of control by an NFL head coach leads to the embarrassing on-field activities of an excellent player like Ndamukong Sue (last Thanksgiving, Suh stomped a Green Bay blocker out of frustration; this Thanksgiving, he kicked Houston QB Matt Schaub in the groin and is waiting to see if the NFL takes any action against him).

What’s the solution?  Well, that’s actually pretty easy.  These coaches who can’t control themselves in big-game situations simply need to hire a football guy with a brain who knows the rules AND can keep his head.  Let that guy hold the red challenge flag.  Take it out of the hands of the over-the-top emotional coach.  We are not talking about a young football player a year or two out of college.  We are talking about a grown man who simply reacted like a 12-year-old because he “was so mad.”

Hard to believe, but that was a major play that contributed mightily to the Lions losing the game to the Texans and all but eliminating themselves from playoff contention.


As dumb as Jim Schwartz might be, the NFL is dumber.  It’s been a bad year for the hierarchy of the NFL, which can’t kill the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg no matter how hard they try.  From the absurdity of the replacement refs (nickel and diming the real refs) to the stupidity of the over-the-top penalty of not allowing a review because a coach throws the challenge flag (it should just be a penalty, not an elimination of the review, if the NFL’s goal is to, you know, actually get the play RIGHT).

Throw in what is far worse, the NFL’s  (until recently) blindness to the scary concussion issues in football (at all levels), and to say the NFL is having a bad year is an understatement.  With thousands of former players suing the league, and with the new information that doctors examining NFL players (like Mike Webster of the Steelers) recognized fully that repeated blows to the head in NFL games did (and does) cause concussions and serious brain trauma, well, it’s only a matter of time before the NFL takes an incredible financial/ integrity hit to its already shaky reputation.

But just to focus on this stupid challenge rule, which should be amended this week (not next year), the notion that a coach (or anybody) as a penalty (on top of a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty) can negate a review of a scoring play (and, this season, a turnover) is so incredibly wrong-headed that it’s hard to describe how stupid it is.

Maybe throwing out the baby with the bath water?

In the law, there is a centuries-old statement that says you shouldn’t “let the law make an ass of itself.”  It’s applicable when it is clear, from a common-sense perspective, that a particular legal ruling makes no sense at all and should not be allowed.

Well, in this instance (Schwartz’s throwing the challenge flag when he was not allowed to), the NFL has made an ass of itself, by eliminating replay of an obvious mistake call (non-call) by officials.

While nobody outside of Detroit wants to help Jim Schwartz or the Lions, the reality is a terrible non-call was made (by the real officials, by the way), the NFL had instituted a way to easily correct the mistake and, poof, eliminated its own safe guards to protect against terrible (game-changing) calls because an uncontrollable coach lost his mind.

That shouldn’t be the intention of the rule. 

But that’s the result.

Dumb and dumber.  You can’t make it up.

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