Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 26, 2012

James Cook: Schwartz should know better


---- — You'd figure an NFL coach would know the rules.

But you'd also figure the NFL would make sensible rules.

Wrong on both accounts.

Jim Schwartz may have known what the rule book says about challenging scores, but he got emotional and threw the red challenge flag anyway when Justin Forsett scored what was obviously a non-touchdown to everybody else. What was a reviewable play — which would have almost certainly resulted in the score being reversed — was suddenly not only not reviewable, but also a 15-yard penalty on the Detroit Lions.

Undoubtedly, the rule is stupid and serves no real purpose. Still, it's a rule.

"I know that we can't challenge a turnover or a scoring play and I overreacted," Schwartz said after the Lions' overtime loss to Houston. "I was so mad that they didn't call him down — because he was obviously down on the field. I had the flag out of my pocket before he even scored the touchdown and that's all my fault. I overreacted in that situation and I cost us a touchdown."

There were calls for Schwartz' ouster as head coach before this blunder. Now the volume is a lot higher on that notion.

This Lions team has seemingly been bereft of direction and emotion this season after improving to 10-6 last year. Their strengths — Calvin Johnson and the defensive line — have been blunted by opposing coaches, and Detroit has had no answer. Yes, Johnson leads the league in receiving yards. But he is head and shoulders above every wide receiver in the league, and Scott Linehan's refusal to target perhaps the best overall player in the NFL more is a travesty. Perhaps they'll have to more now that Titus Young has been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team for being a slacker and locker room cancer.

Speaking of conduct detrimental to the team, isn't costing your team a touchdown because you couldn't control your emotions one? Schwartz' blunder is as big as Ndamukong Suh's stomp in last year's Thanksgiving game.

This one isn't on the referees, folks. It's all on Schwartz. They did their job just like they should have. They let it go, and should have had the opportunity to correct it. If all had gone the way it should have, the play would have been reviewed and overturned.

Then Schwartz threw the red challenge flag — and cemented the call as a mistake instead of a correction.

Hopefully William Clay Ford Jr. opened the door to Schwartz' office after the game, threw in a rule book, slammed the door and left without saying a word. An NFL coach not knowing the rules is inexcusable.

If you recall, the infamous handshake with Jim Harbaugh came about in part because earlier in that game Schwartz appeared to yell "Learn the rules!" across the field to Harbaugh when he ran afoul of the NFL's guidelines.

It may be time for Schwartz to learn a little more himself.

Whether that's in Detroit remains to be seen.