Schwartz: Only Agenda Is Winning

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jim Schwartz claims he isn't going to let injuries or the team record distract him from gameday, but admits that circumstances have put him and his staff in a position to evaluate a lot of unknown players going forward.

“(Injuries) can force you to have to play certain players,” said Schwartz. “It may be a guy that you didn’t know a lot about. He makes your team, he’s a back-up player – maybe he’s even an inactive player – and you really don’t have a chance to see him in a role.

“What happens is, when somebody gets hurt and he has to play, you find out whether he can or can’t and whether you can count on him as you go forward.”

“We can’t look at anything other than winning that week’s game,” he said. “You talk about long-term improvement and those things; those are things you talk about during training camp and OTAs and the offseason program and the draft and things like that. That can’t be our focus.

“Our focus has to be, ‘What do we have to do to win this game?’ Every game is going to be a different set of circumstances, but that’s got to be our focus. It’s got to be wins and losses; we can’t point to anything other than that.”

As a fan you wonder what the coaches really think and what the coaches really see. Dan Gronkowski got called up today. Is he just a body to the staff or is he a guy who can contribute going forward? I doubt you can ever trust the coaches to give a straight answer so instead we just eyeball how a guy is used - or not - and make our best guess about how well he's liked.

So What Have We Learned?

Friday, November 27, 2009

About the Lions? Not too much, other than that they do not match up well with the Packers at all.

Yesterday's game was eerily similar to the 26-0 loss of a few weeks ago. The Lions scored a few more points due to some Packer miscues and some solid defense but the offense was equally ineffective.

In the October 18 game Culpepper was forced to play without Calvin Johnson and with injured Brandon Pettigrew and Gosder Cherilus. Green Bay had Aaron Kampman and Al Harris. Before leaving with a "hamstring" (mercy killing by the staff?) Culpepper was simply swarmed under. I don't recall a single pass he was able to step into. Stanton was able to run around a bit and create passing lanes but ultimately he was equally ineffective.

Yesterday Stafford has a bit more time, but he was gimpy, Calvin Johnson still appears to be gimpy and Pettigrew (again) got knocked out of the game early. Green Bay didn't have Kampman or Harris but ultimately they didn't need either.

So we really have no idea whether Culpepper would have done better.

The Lions' run defense was better than the pass defense but that wasn't anything new. Rodgers passed at will against the weak Lion pass defense. It's hard to see how that part of the game gets fixed quickly. Detroit really needs a solid #1 corner, some pass-rushing ends and linebackers and a rangy free safety. Even if they are able to draft all of those players in one off-season (unlikely) it will be a year or two before they reach their potential.

What we maybe did learn is how much better the Packers are than the Lions, and perhaps what makes them a solid sleeper come playoff time. Green Bay's defense is simply ferocious. Better with Kampan and Harris than without, to be sure, but still among the best in the league.

Ted Thompson is probably the best talent evaluator in the division. Since taking over GM duties in 2005 he has drafted Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Nick Collins, AJ Hawk and Jeremy Thompson. He signed Charles Woodson and traded for Ryan Grant. He drafted Johnny Jolly in the 6th round and a 7th rounder from this year - Brad Jones - got his first career start yesterday in place on Kampman. From the 2009 draft Raji appears to be the force that Green Bay expected and Clay Matthews has 5 sacks so far, TJ Lang is the starting right tackle.

and expect Green Bay to get better. They are in their second year in a 3-4 and while they appear now to have the pieces in place to run it, there will still be some maturation and improvement. The offensive line is a shambles but the team is still pretty good. Figure the line gets addressed this winter and at the very least is better in 2010, if not much better. Rodgers probably has the best set of offensive players in the NFC around him with Grant, Jennings, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley (among others).

So while we might not have learned much about the Lions at all, we maybe did learn how far they are from where they need to be.

Rebuilding Traditions

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Killer writes a story about the Thanksgiving game.

Schwartz has stressed the history and legacy of the Thanksgiving Day tradition to his young players and the rookies have taken note.

"He explained the importance of it and that our backs are against the wall to keep the legacy going. It's a national spotlight,'' said running back Aaron Brown, a sixth-round draft pick. "Coach Schwartz broke down the tradition to us the other day and we know it's a big deal to the Lions family. We're trying to take the momentum we built in the last game and push it on to this game.''

It's still uncertain whether rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford (left shoulder) will play in the game, but he wants to become part of the game's history.

"This game has been going on for such a long time and it's a great chance to be on national TV and it shows the nation what we're all about,'' he said. "It's just something you want to keep around -- you want to play on Thanksgiving Day. It's a great opportunity, it's great fun and it's awesome to be able to say that you're a part of two teams that get to do it every year."

"I've watched the Lions on every Thanksgiving since I can remember and watching Barry Sanders hold that turkey leg (as the game's MVP),'' said rookie linebacker Zack Follett, a seventh-round pick. "Not to lie, I've kind of had my fantasies during meetings of what I've got to do to get that turkey leg. I'm excited.

"There's such history. It's been around since 1934 and a lot of history comes with it. The coaches haven't had to coach effort this week.''

Schwartz isn't doing anything that other coaches haven't done - even as it is great that this is a point of emphasis this week. This speaks more to how complete the rebuild of this team is, they are so far down that even the traditions have to be rebuilt.

The Legend Of Matthew Stafford

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Obviously a lot of buzz surrounding Stafford after his record-setting Sunday. I am partial to Dan Graziano's take (AOL Fanhouse).

Sounds cliche, but if there were ever a time to gauge poise, this was it. The final eight seconds of this game were a frenzy, and Stafford managed to keep his head about him while others (notably Browns coach Eric Mangini) were losing theirs. ~ "We didn't draft him for his elusiveness," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "During that play I screamed 'Throw the ball!' about six times, but he just kept on making somebody miss and buying himself time."


"I was content to lay there for a while," Stafford said, continuing his painkiller-aided rambling description of the play. "And then Dom (Raiola) grabbed me and told me that pass interference was called and I was like, 'Really? Come on.' I need to figure out which ref called it, because he's a good man."


"I heard timeout over the loudspeaker and knew that was probably my only chance to get back in," said Stafford, an NFL rookie who apparently knows a rule that an NFL head coach does not. "It was my left shoulder and I don't really need it to throw."

Armed with such rock-solid logic, he raced over to offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and told him, "I can throw." Stunned, Linehan sent him back onto the field for the final play, which was a touchdown pass to Brandon Pettigrew. The extra point won the game.

"He made a great play to finish the game, but probably his best play was eluding four team doctors on the sideline that were all trying to stop him (from going back into the game)," Schwartz said. "It's a good thing our team doctors didn't play on varsity, because Matt had to work his way back onto the field."

I've been among the more stubborn of skeptics, but at this point any doubt that Stafford will be a very good NFL quarterback has been erased. He will still make infuriating decisions (like the interception into triple coverage on the Lions' preceding drive), he will probably have problems with touch and accuracy for years. But any quarterback who fights his way out of the dirt and throws the game winning TD at 0:00 with a shoulder hanging limply has everything it takes to be great.