Congratulations Lions fans! If you are reading this, Jim Caldwell has fired a good portion of the offensive coaching staff and retained the services of a guy whose name seems to indicate he should probably be working a barbecue pit, running moonshine up the Smoky Mountains at night or even, maybe, coaching football (but not like football on a professional level but probably some backneck east Texas high school or a community college in South Carolina or something). Nevertheless, the firing is a good thing!
However, as any good lush knows, that bright idea is never that simple and there's always a mess in the morning.
Someone left a book here
Any termination of Joe Lombardi comes with the dichotomy of a 2014 Lions team that reached the playoffs. The dramatic turnaround frames everything that has happened in this season so far. Unfortunately there's signs that 2014 was not a team that relied heavily on its offense, and the narrative will now flow against Lombardi, taken out from beneath the rug where it had been swept. In FootballOutsider's DVOA, the Detroit Lions offense in 2014 was -3.8%, ranked #19 in the league. Rushing was just around the bottom of the league. In hindsight looking at an average offense it's easy to say, correctly, that the Detroit Lions leaned on their defense (#3 in DVOA at -10.0%) to reach success.
With Lombardi out, a book falls into the lap of Cooter. It is the playbook; Joe's playbook. There is no way to dramatically change the scheme midseason. The job of coaching in the NFL demands long hours, terrifyingly long, the denial of sleep and dreams and family interaction. Life is drained by a Dark Crystal machine demanding victory; we are dead, we go into battle to reclaim our lives. Even still, there is not enough time to change everything significantly. The staff has four days and a transatlantic flight. That whiteboard isn't going to fit on the jet.
The immediate hope is re-sequencing. Shuffle the deck, throw in a joker. Make sure that bastard the dealer doesn't see you slip in an extra ace. For now, the playbook will be set. Come the bye week, there will be more chances for even less sleep and further rejiggering. For now, Cooter's still playing the shoe Lombardi started.
Maybe you should get that checked out
Are we worried yet about how many hits Stafford's taken?
X-rays will continue to come back negative on the quarterback and there's a narrative beast that must be fed about Stafford's toughness. There's no dispute that he's lived up admirably to the billing. Matthew Stafford fits all the marks we've set. His appearance is such that you never expect him to stop crushing beer cans on his forehead or taking 3D after 3D. There's nothing that can stop this bus until Ultra.
Injuries do not vanish within a matter of weeks. What Stafford takes in hits will continue to pile up. When something does break, it will break dramatically. Stafford has been a stone wall taking chip after chip. When does it finally snarl and partially crumble?
Injuries in football can become exacerbated quickly and dumped into syndicated reruns. Arian Foster was back for a short period of time before he was gone again, and may not be back with the same colors. The Sam Bradford Chronicles are known by many who follow the NFL. Andre Levy's progress astounds me, but leaves me questioning if this could just get turned into trouble again.
Better protection will certainly save Stafford, who plays a position where repeated blows and injury are often alien. But the Lions immediate future is tied to Stafford given the abysmal state of the run game, so exacerbating the issue is not recommended by any doctor.
There are people
The event of a firing on the coaching staff is often a source of joy for the fans. Not everyone will share this.
The modern reality we deal with faces pressure to dehumanize ourselves and those around us. In a way, this has always existed thanks to the base nature of humanity, incubated in a startling manner by the Lovecraftian horrors of the corporate ur-reality's sensibilities seeping into our dimension. The newfound addiction to cyberspace has only exacerbated such by stripping faces and physical interaction; sociopathy is no longer limited to the sociopaths. In the realm of sports there's another layer of volatility added to this fine mess.
The modern fan tends to care about the outcome rather than the elements and granted morality follows. The winner is clean and holy; the loser is the sinner and denied emotion. Dehumanized, cast out. Throw the bums out, there must be someone here who's a winner. Coffee's for closers only. The cruelty in sports is unparalleled in this manner.
On Tuesday I went onto sports radio in Toledo and was asked about a sound clip from Matthew Stafford. He sounded crushed talking about the circumstances that saw Lombardi fired. Stafford took plenty of responsibility for the situation upon himself. In part, he was talking the truth. His responsibilities have expanded on running the offense. But there's something else.
Stafford seemed genuinely disappointed that these moves had to be made, possibly because there was a genuine personal relationship with Lombardi. To those on the outside, this could seem alien. When morality comes from winning there's no room in the thought process that there are friendships and relationships that come from within. The work environment, even in the planet-killing corporate structure, allows for friendship between coworkers. Even in a professional capacity, these emotions develop. This is no different with a football organization. In regards to assistant line coach Jeremiah Washburn, Manny Ramirez was more transparent on his thoughts. He let down someone he was close with.
This is not to eulogize or weep for Jeremiah Washburn or Joe Lombardi. There's no need for that, even if there's hints that this was a level of deniability granted to the front office and Caldwell by casting out these coaches. It's simply to remind of the basic humanity involved in all parties here. The players are going to mourn for individuals that the fans feel nothing for. Their coworkers and friends cleaned out their cubicles; they were being handed pink slips and had to move back to Tacoma. The bums are out, but those bums were their coworkers and friends, and those bums worked damn hard, even if their results weren't the best.
I would hope anyone who has ever been fired despite how hard they worked can sympathize with that, at least.