Coach Scared: The Return of the Pussycats

Note to Joey Harrington: If you ever lead the Detroit Lions to a World Championship like Layne did, you will be forever embraced by the city, and the fans of this team. If you accomplish that, then you will become the next Bobby Layne, the next Al Kaline, the next Steve Yzerman, the next Joe Dumars. Win a championship in this city and you will join that club of Detroit sports immortals.

Coach Scared -- Episode Duh: The Return of the Pussycats

I hate movie sequels. Rarely are they an improvement on the original episode. One exception of course is first two Godfather movies; the second, with Robert DeNiro as a young Vito, being just as good as the original with Marlon Brando playing old Vito. However, they went too far with GF III. That monstrosity should have resulted in Francis Ford Coppola enduring the same fate as Sonny Corleone at the toll booth.

So while it’s almost always tough to improve on a good thing, as proven by the putrid celluloid train wreck Caddyshack II, it only goes to reason that it must be equally tough to make a bad thing worse the second time around, right? Well the Detroit Lions found a way to create their own version of Caddyshack III last Sunday at Ford Field versus the Green Bay Packers.

A game that was supposed to be another measuring stick for a rebuilding franchise turned quickly into an embarrassment, as the Green Bay Packers ran roughshod over the seemingly overmatched and overwhelmed Detroit Lions (Haven’t I written this somewhere before?).

Detroit head coach Steve Mariucci and his defensive coordinator Dick Jauron were completely overmatched by their counterparts, Green Bay’s Mike Sherman and Bob Slowik, respectively. Detroit (for a second time) played close to the vest offensively and defensively, while the Packers, with their backs to the wall with a 1-4 record, slammed their foot on the throttle and never let up.

Jauron’s defensive calls (again) made the Lions’ defensive backs and linebackers sitting ducks all afternoon. In the second-quarter last Sunday, Lion CB Fernando Bryant was lined up nearly ten-yards off of Packer WR Javon Walker the ball at the snap on a 3rd-and-3 play at the Packer 33. Walker, who is one of the fastest receivers in the NFL, blew by the Bryant unchecked, unchucked, and unmolested for a 50-yard catch to the Detroit 17.

I hate to repeat myself, but Fernando Bryant is a big boy isn’t he? Why not a least give your big off-season free agent cornerback a chance to challenge Walker man-to-man, instead of expecting him to keep up with Javon after spotting him a ten-yard head start? Instead, Jauron forced his best pass defender (after the now healthy Dre’ Bly) to (once more) play football euthanasia.

The most galling thing (yet again) about the whole defensive game plan was that the Lions remained in it for the entire game. Even after falling behind 24-10, Jauron refused to allow his defense to become the aggressor. Instead, the Packer offense’s third TD drive, which culminated with a Najeh Davenport 13-yard TD run, would have made Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman cackle with delight.

Why for the second-time in three games has the Lions’ coaching staff resigned themselves, and their players, to a slow death? You do it once, it’s a mistake. OK, so fix it. You do it twice, it’s coaching absurdity on full display.

Once again, I don’t want to hear about how the Lions have injuries and a lack of depth. It’s (again) a cop-out for bad coaching. With Dre’ Bly back in the lineup last Sunday, the only player now missing from Detroit’s defensive stable is SLB Boss Bailey. If the Lions’ coaching staff still feel that they are so undermanned, at least be the aggressors and go down fighting.

For Jauron and Mariucci to force the Lions’ defenders to (again) just drop into soft zones and let a future Hall-of-Famer like Brett Favre pick them apart is an insult to their abilities as NFL players and competitors. Is the Detroit coaching staff going to continue to stay the course with this kind of cowardly defensive philosophy? With accurate, battle tested quarterbacks like Kurt Warner, Vinny Testaverde, Payton Manning, Steve McNair, Daunte Culpepper (twice) and Favre (again) still waiting to face the Lions this season, let’s hope not.

Joey Harrington and the Boo Birds

Now, as some of you may remember, I criticized Lions’ fans after the Houston game when they began booing the home team just two offensive plays into the game. I simply felt then, as I do now, that it was a little early in the game to begin with the cat-calls. However, that doesn’t mean that I feel that those who pay big-bucks to go and see their favorite professional team don’t have the right to boo once in an awhile. Sunday’s performance by the Lions was clearly one of those boo-worthy games.

With that in mind, the following quotes came during Joey Harrington’s Packer post-game Q&A with the media:

"I learned after watching last week that if they'll boo you at Lambeau Field with the best active quarterback in the game right now -- who's provided Super Bowls, playoff wins and more excitement and consistent winning than anybody in the game right now -- if they can boo him there, you can get booed anywhere," Harrington said.

"Do I think it's right? No. Can I change it? No. Like I said, that's not going to affect me. Of course, it's nice when the fans are behind you, but it's become part of today's game and we didn't play well. There's no getting around that."

Toughen up buttercup. This is the NFL and Detroit, Michigan, not the PAC 10 and Eugene, Oregon. If you play like crap in this city, you’re gonna get booed. When you quarterback an offense that only collects 5 first downs, 125 total yards of offense and goes 1-11 on 3rd down conversions, you and the rest of the team gets booed, and deservedly so.

I was told a story once by a teammate of Bobby Layne’s about how he came to the line of scrimmage during a bad performance by the Lions, and as the boo birds rained down their disapproval on Layne and his team, Bobby yelled to the crowd,

"Don’t tell me what to do on Monday, tell me what to do right now!"

Joey, Bobby Layne was Detroit’s Brett Favre. They booed him at times, and they will boo you too. It has always been a part of the professional game. It’s something that just simply comes with the territory.

However, remember this, if you ever lead the Detroit Lions to a World Championship like Layne did, you will be forever embraced by the city, and the fans of this team. If you accomplish that, then you will become the next Bobby Layne, the next Al Kaline, the next Steve Yzerman, the next Joe Dumars. Win a championship in this city and you will join that club of Detroit sports immortals. You can ask those last three guys mentioned in the above sentence what that’s like.

I’ll guarantee one more thing. If you ever become a member of that club, Oregon will never seem so far away ever again.


Lions Report Top Stories