Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz could be on the hot seat after an underperforming team misses the 2012 NFL Playoffs. However, one play during the Lions annual Thanksgiving Day game could cost Schwartz his job earlier than expected.
Houston Texans running back Justin Forsett scored an 81 yard touchdown run during the Thanksgiving Day game to shrink the Lions lead from ten points to three. There was just one problem, Forsett had an elbow and knee down after a six yard gain. The bigger problem was the refs never called him down so they let Forsett walk right into the end zone. Everyone in the stadium knew Forsett was down, everyone watching the nationally televised game at home knew Forsett was down as well. Was Forsett down? Check out the video here and see for yourself.
Lions head coach, knowing Forsett was down, threw his challenge flag out of habit to make sure the play got reviewed. What happened next is sure to be the talk of the NFL this week. Last year the league made every scoring play automatically reviewable. The fact that the touchdown would be automatically reviewed made Schwartz’s red flag on the turf an unsportsmanlike penalty and negated any chance of the play being reviewed and overturned.
Schwartz later took the blame for the goof, saying “It’s on me” to his coaching staff and players. Was the call silly? Absolutely. Did Schwartz make a bad decision based on a weird NFL rule? Absolutely. The Lions lost the game in overtime by a field goal in a game that could have been decided before the extra time if Schwartz could of kept his flag in his pocket. Fans booed the refs decision and later booed the officials anytime they could, including the overtime rules talk to the captains at midfield.
Once the fans learn more information about the rule, Schwartz could be the one getting booed. At the end of the game Schwartz said, “That’s what the rule is, I mean, the idea with replay is to get the call on the field right. Obviously that didn’t happen.” The problem is there could have been a replay if Schwartz followed the rules. A disappointing 4-7 record for a team that was supposed to make the Playoffs isn’t helping the head coach any.
The problem is despite the poor season and the sub 500 career record in Detroit, Schwartz is the hope for the city in the future. The last coach to post a career winning record with Detroit was Gary Moeller, who coached seven games in 2000 and posted a 4-3 record. The last three full time coaches in Detroit all had records under 40%. In 2001 and 2002, Marty Mornhinweg posted a horrible 5-27 record. His replacement, longtime San Francisco 49ers head coach, Steve Mariucci posted a 15-28 record. Prior to Schwartz, Rod Marinelli posted a 10-38 record in three seasons in Detroit.
Schwartz is to be blamed for the red flag disaster. However, the head coach is already owning up to the bad call. The NFL will likely change the rule next season, which won’t save the Lions season, but shows how silly the decision really was. Part of the blame still remains on several officials who did not blow the play dead. Here’s hoping Detroit makes the smart decision and keeps Schwartz around to prove his worth to the Lions team.
In three and a half seasons, Schwartz has begun to revive the Lions team and bring hope for the future. In 2011, the Lions returned to the Playoffs for the first time since 1999. After posting losing records in his first two years in the Motor City (2-14, 6-10), Schwartz led the 10-6 Lions to a Wild Card berth last year. Through Thursday’s game, Schwartz now holds a 22-36 (38%) record with the Lions.
Schwartz began his coaching career in the college ranks, coaching in various roles for the University of Maryland, Minnesota University, NC Central and Colgate. In 1993, Schwartz joined the NFL ranks as a scout for the Cleveland Browns. Schwartz later served as a defensive assistant with the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans. In 2001, Schwartz was promoted to the defensive coordinator of the Titans. In 2008, Schwartz interviewed for head coaching roles with the Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons and Lions, before ultimately being selected to coach Detroit.