It's no surprise that Jim Schwartz's Detroit Lions are out of control.
This is not to say that Schwartz, whose energy and imagination are refreshing in a business filled with so many dolts, encouraged Ndamukong Suh(notes) into the dirtiest play since Albert Haynesworth(notes) did the two-stomp on Andre Gurode's(notes) face in 2006. Schwartz, by nature, is not a dirty guy and doesn't coach his players to be like that. But it's also not much of a surprise that the same coach who earlier this season stormed after San Francisco counterpart Jim Harbaugh is now watching his team's best player face a suspension for losing his cool.
Suh's personal foul for driving the head of Green Bay offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith(notes) into the turf and then stomping on Dietrich-Smith's arm on Thursday ranks among the dumbest, most out-of-control plays you will ever see.
Suh made it worse with his lame claim that he didn't intend either act, saying, "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."
[ Related: Suh's 'apology' for ejection ]
Don't play us like fools. Heck, even Haynesworth knew he was wrong in the moments after he forced Gurode to get 30 stitches. Haynesworth apologized and then took his medicine in the form of a five-game suspension.
Fortunately, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't play around and Suh can expect a lot from the commissioner in the way of a fine and suspension based on Goodell's history. Two or three games is easily what Suh can expect for this bit of stupidity.
This play was dumb not just because it's the latest incident from Suh, a guy who is about to significantly add to the $42,500 he has been docked by the NFL in less than two full seasons. Not just because he further affirmed his reputation as the NFL's dirtiest player (as named recently among his peers by The Sporting News). Rather, it was those two plus the fact that Suh cost his team a chance to win.
Suh committed this penalty in the third quarter, with Green Bay up only 7-0 and facing a third down. The Packers could have been forced to settle for a field goal. Instead, they went up 14-0 after getting a short touchdown run and eventually took a 27-15 victory that allowed them to improve to 11-0. The Lions, meanwhile, fell to 7-4. Still good enough to be in the playoff hunt, but precarious depending upon what Goodell does in the next few days.
About the only good thing to be said for Suh on Thursday is that at least he didn't stomp on someone's head.
But he further eroded his already diminishing group of supporters. The play was impossible to defend, idiocy on so many levels that it creates a mental traffic jam trying to figure out which was worse: his lack of sportsmanship, his bad timing within the game or his bad timing within this season.
The Lions have a shot at making the playoffs for the first time since 1999. They have a chance to erase 11 years of immeasurable ineptitude. In the middle of what should be a great season, Suh set off a stink bomb on Thanksgiving Day in his team's home stadium.
Now, if the Lions are forced to play without him, qualifying for one of the wild-card spots will get harder as Chicago, Atlanta and three teams from the NFC East are giving chase.
This all comes back to Schwartz. He has done much to turn the Lions around, starting with the excitement of a 5-0 start. However, in the moments after Detroit's first loss on Oct. 16 against San Francisco at home, Schwartz also lost his cool. After a bad exchange with counterpart Jim Harbaugh, Schwartz lost control and chased Harbaugh down the field.
In some respects, it was comical. At the same time, it probably warranted a fine. Now, weeks later, the Lions are playing like a team that doesn't know how to handle tough situations. What a shocker. Players take their cues from the people in charge.
[ Related: Spotty officiating in Lions-Packers game ]
Since the coach's outburst, Detroit has lost three of five to land at 7-4. It's not just that the Lions are losing, but they look bad doing it. Three weeks ago against Chicago, Detroit let the game get out of control quickly. Likewise, it never had a great chance against Atlanta in another home loss.
The rest of this season isn't easy. Next up is a road game at New Orleans and the Lions also have Oakland and a rematch at Green Bay. You don't need an expert in football to tell you that missing Suh for two or three games is potentially season-altering.
It just would have been nice if Detroit's football experts had understood that beforehand.
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- Jim Harbaugh