It’s The Discipline, Dummy.

“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” Oscar Wilde

Tell me you’re stunned that Jim Schwartz threw his red challenge flag yesterday when he didn’t need to and it cost his team 7. Go ahead, think about it…
 
Got your rationale?
 
Before you start, lemme tell you about this bridge to Canada I’m building and I’d LOVE for you to be one of the financiers. You in? Great.
 
The Lions are not as talented as the top teams in the league. They’re also not as bereft of talent as the league’s bottom feeders.
 
Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford are so good – how good are they, Eric – they’d probably start at multiple positions for a team like Jacksonville. Kidding, but point made.
 
The Lions have the QB. We saw the glimpses of greatness again yesterday in Stafford. It was there often in 2011, and it reappeared yesterday. We can put to rest the gripes about Stafford’s side winding mechanics. Phil Simms was a bit TOO effusive in his praise of Stafford’s slinging, but 80% of the time (it works all the time, right?), no not quite 80, but Stafford’s Eck-impersonation is quite effective more often than not. Stafford’s inconsistencies this year are not due to his arm. This isn’t Sanchez, or the Kolb/Skelton duo. It’s not even Sam Bradford or Cam Newton. Stafford, going to conservative here, is one of the ten most talented throwers in the league. However, talent needs to be taught, it needs nurturing. We’ll come back to that.
 
So they’ve got the quarterback (good luck in YOUR search Philly, KC, Jax, etc…), but the Lions also have problem with discipline. The problem is too many parts of the organization, don’t have any. Just as going Up North is part of the Michigan culture, resisting good judgment – having discipline – is a cultural concern with the Lions. Some players, like Calvin or Stephen Tulloch, and many others, can evade the plague that’s afflicted such a large part of the organization, but through 11 games the sickness is there. (God’s honest truth? They probably needed new ownership)
 
Time to submit evidence. This may take a while.
 
In 2011 the Lions committed 7.9 penalties per game. 3rd worst in the league. The year prior, 8.5 per game, second worst in the league. Yep, Oakland is there too. This year the Lions are averaging 7 penalties a game, that’s good for 27th in the league. And yes, all the other teams in that statistical neighborhood, aside from Baltimore, have records similar to the Lions. Not all penalties are the maddening mental mistakes, but it would seem most are this year for the Lions. And as human beings, when you make the mental errors, referees are sure to be on the look out for your physical errors. Your benefit of the doubt doinks off the upright! I view the penalty epidemic as a coaching thing. They’ve been costing themselves gobs of yards all the time under Schwartz. Some players are different, but the penalties are the same. If girls repeatedly keep breaking up with you, and you just cannot figure out why, dude, you’re probably the problem.
 
6 offseason arrests, accounting for 24 percent of the league’s offseason perp total. 6 of 50 or more players is a small percentage, but it’s too large for this team. Ya know, the one that has a hard time obeying the rules on the field – the penalties. No shock that some of them feel they’re above those rules off the field as well. Perhaps it’s not an arrogance, it’s a stupidity.
 
Granted, the Lions don’t have much leverage to punish their players due to the CBA, still, when my dad sent me away to school, and out here to Detroit as a 20 year old, your damn right I didn’t want to let him down or embarass him. In addition, the off field behavior CAN be created by the at work enrivonment. Depending where you work, you may have gotten the ‘don’t embarass the company’ email about your behavior in public, or private for that matter.
 
Well, the Lions didn’t have to employ the scoundrels of the earth, did they?
 
Whether it was the Lions at 13, in the 2011 NFL draft, or someone else, you can easily accept THAT team being the one that finally selects Nick Fairley thus concluding his plummet from the top of the draft, where he was expected to go. I’m not going to tout my or your hindsight here, but maybe the Lions shouldn’t have been the team bringing a guy with potential character flaws into their employ. They couldn’t help themselves though. When you can’t stop yourself from doing something, ohhhh, what’s the called again? Discipline. Or lack of it.
 
The Lions needed Janoris Jenkins. They were closely linked to him in many amateur and professional mock drafts, all with the same caveats about Jenkins’ off field bedroom issues and could the Lions take that gamble after their winter behind bars. Not being able to draft Jenkins created a stream of events for the Lions that led to them taking Ryan Broyles, in the second round. First half of that fine – Broyles is just about what I expected a healthy version of him to be. Second half of that, as in, where they selected him is where I’ve had an eye brow raised since April. As much as they adored Broyles, enought to take him 54th overall, I recall at the time I wasn’t the only one surprised by the selection. Not the pick of the position, because I’ll give them credit for drafting insurance in case they had to at some point deactivate a problem child WR, but the player. I’m almost certain I wasn’t alone in my awe of Broyles going that early. Before the knee injury he was supposedly a first round pick, but after I don’t think anyone expected to hear his name until the third round. He torn a knee, was never blazing fast, played in a conference with little defense, and was rather slight. If the Lions had taken him there, with their 85th pick or traded up to snag him, having had likely taken more of an immediate need pick in the second, we’d all be satisfied – not that I’m expecting them to satisfy me or fans. Do that with character, dignity, preparation and utlimately wins. But, they couldn’t help themselves. They took Broyles and the NFL landscape went ‘huh???’
 
(Very) Briefly, there’s the Suh thing from last Thanksgiving and his comments and indignation after it. As for yesterday’s event, Boomer Esiason, nor Shannon Sharpe nor anyone else’s opinion is definitive to me. The only indictment of Suh’s nut kick I can honor needs to come from the victim. “I really don’t have anything to say about that play or that person,” is what Matt Schaub said. Sorry, even with Suh’s track and driving record, I can’t convict on Schaub’s statement. Sound like he just concurs with the players’ poll of the league’s least liked employee. But yeah, there was still last year. And he needs a 4 cylinder car.
 
I’ve said multiple this year that Lions don’t necessarily lose their games on Sunday. From their sluggish starts on offense, and their inability to scheme effectively against what every team was doing to them, I think they lost a majority of their games during the week. Often times they were ill prepared for kickoff on gamedays. Preparation? Eh, a good part of that comes from discipline. I’m not asking for coaches to endure unreasoable 20 hour days, but meticulously sit there, meet, study, refine, create, innovate until you overcome your failings.
 
I know I’ve heaped praise on the quarterback, his physical gifts anyway, but he’s undoubtedly been part of the slow starts on offense. A few weeks ago I pondered whether he was enamored with the game as much as he needed to raise the level of his play thanks to endless preparation. That doubt has circulated around Mark Sanchez. With Stafford, if this is just a job for him, instead of a career and lifestyle, then the Lions chose the wrong guy. I don’t think that’s the worry here though. I think what’s ailed Stafford, and what’s been a factor in his regression this year, is his tutelage. It’s any manager’s responsibility to make sure their employees are prepared and motivated.
 
Two names comes to mind of young quarterbacks who starred, then an offseason of adjustments were made against them, then the following year, well one coach Raheem Morris lost his job in Tampa, and it’s likely the Panther’s Ron Rivera is going to lose his in just over a month. I bet, with a gifted and prepared quarterback you can sniff 8 wins on that alone in the NFL.
 
On June 29th Jim Schwartz received a contract extension beyond this year. Details are still cryptic. At that time, I didn’t directly say it was a fatal move, I simple stated that that may be a regretful move at some point. Maybe I was fence walking. Early in the season, due to the slow starts and other errors, I began to think back to my words on June 29th. I’d like to welcome everyone else to where I was, and if you’re not here yet, seriously, I’ve got this visionary idea for a bridge. In fact, I’ll throw one in from Brooklyn as well. Matching bridges for the holidays!
 
The Lions aren’t a bad football team. They’re an organization with a discipline problem. Fix that, and with 9 and 81, eight wins should be as easy those two having a catch.

One final NFL thought to share. Tom Coughlin was always a very good coach, but he turned into a Super Bowl head coach when he reigned in his irascible emotions on the sidelines instead of looking like he’d just been arrested for jay walking in NYC.

Emotions are great for human relations, they’re terrible for decision making.

“Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”

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