By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Something stinks in Detroit, and for once it’s not just Kid Rock.
I can’t recall an NFL team in my sports-viewing lifetime like the 2011 Lions. The 1985 Packers under Forest Gregg I’m aware of, but having been just three years old when they were acting the fool, I can’t accurately equate the two teams.
The Titans and Steelers of recent vintage have danced with dirty reputations, but outside of the infamous Albert Haynesworth-doing-the-Charleston-on-Andre-Gurode’s-head incident years back, I wouldn’t say there was ever a culture of brattiness fostered within those two organizations. Those organizations also tended to back it all up with wins and playoff appearances.
Yes, within these current Lions such a culture is fostered. It starts at the top with head coach Jim Schwartz, offensive in his defensive nature of never taking responsibility for a team whose physical talent is greatly outweighed by its mental midgetude.
In his conference call with the Green Bay media on Tuesday, Schwartz was asked about the risk of his team getting too emotional for the big Thanksgiving game against the Packers. “Our guys play with some passion, play with some emotion,” said Schwartz, “but we certainly don’t worry about putting too much in one game.”
Too much of Ndamukong Suh’s foot, which attempted to stomp the stuffing out of Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith as he lie on the Detroit turf for all national audience to see, I guess Schwartz meant.
I can’t say that Schwartz encourages the behavior we have seen Lions players this season—the multiple dirty plays from Suh, quarterback Matthew Stafford’s antics during a Bears blowout two weeks ago, Nick Fairley, Kyle Vanden Bosch (formerly of the previously mentioned Titans), and so on. But I can say Schwartz acts like a parent in denial of his bully children by doing little to nothing to keep such dirty play in check.
Earlier this month after Suh had met with Commissioner Roger Goodell about his on-field behavior, Schwartz hinted that he knew what the league office wanted coaches to convey to players in regards to what is aggressive play and what is being a dangerous jerk but that he had no intention of instilling that in his players. That was apparent two weeks ago and yesterday.
These Lions are typical bullies. They are above average but not great, capable of flexing muscle on those weaker than them but folding when someone stands up to them or shows them how not-so-great they actually are. They want to be the Bears or Packers, but since they know they are not, they channel their frustrations into trying to make others as negative as they are. Bullies try to make others stoop to their level. Some like the Bears do fight back and win because of superior talent. Others like the Packers just let it roll of their backs and win in spite of the circus.
Bullies also deflect blame from themselves, and Suh’s joke of an explanation after the game yesterday was evidence of that.
“I apologize to my teammates and my fans and my coaches for putting myself in a position to be misinterpreted and taken out of the game,” said the delusional little big man. Suh also claimed he was merely trying to gain balance as he stood up, and I know I often get my bearings after grabbing someone’s head and repeatedly smashing it on the ground by violently stabbing my foot at someone. And for good measure he added, “A lot of people are going to create their own storylines seeing what they want, but I know what I did, and the man upstairs knows what I did.”
I’m pretty sure “the man upstairs” Suh referred to saw all the replays I did and doesn’t appreciate Suh using Him as some sort of cloak to defend something so obviously wrong. I’m also pretty sure the man upstairs that Suh met with just weeks ago saw the replays as well.
The solace I can take in the existence of a squad of goons like the Lions is that they will not be successful. Suh will be lost for at least two games for what he did (Haynesworth got five games), and his otherwise immense talent will be sorely missed on a defense that is dealing with several key injuries already. Stafford and his gloved throwing hand will continue to throw key interceptions. The Lions will continue to shoot itself in the foot and lose games more so than their opponents will win them.
And Jim Schwartz can look possessed on the sidelines and docile in his press conferences all he wants while the ship continues to sink.
There is an unwritten sports rule here in Chicago that Bears fans must automatically hate the Packers because… well… I don’t know. I don’t subscribe to that rule because the Packers are everything a fan of the game should want in all teams. They win and do so without the need for the extracurricular. Their most interesting player is a quarterback who isn’t all that interesting, but who is currently carving his name into the discussion of greatest of all time at his position.
Of late, though, it’s far easier to hate the Lions for actual legitimate reasons. And if hate is too strong a word, it’s certainly easy to laugh at them while they rack up fines, losses, and the disgust of mentally stable football fans nationwide.