On Tuesday, Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports put out an article criticizing Jim Caldwell for failing to properly defend his team after getting jobbed on Monday Night Football. This article quickly gained traction among the media and fans, who are looking to vent their frustrations for failing to get a good quote and wanting some sort of atonement for their injustice, respectively.
The basis of the article is that by not speaking up against the refs, Caldwell is sending out a signal to the league, its officials and opposing players that this team is willing to get walked upon, and therefore, the Lions will perpetually be walked upon. This notion is absurd on many levels, but let's break them down one by one.
1. The Lions players need Caldwell to stand up for them publicly
Here's the argument made by Wetzel:
At some point this isn't about what calls are right or wrong but about standing up and declaring you won't keep being on the wrong side of this (just as they were last January when a controversial call/non-call bounced them from the playoffs). Or for a coach, at least showing his players that he'll fight to the end for them the way they fought to the end for him.
This argument presumes that Caldwell isn't defending his players and team elsewhere, which is inherently false. Caldwell spoke with NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino on Tuesday to further talk about the play. Caldwell failed to go into details about that conversation, but I think it's safe to assume he wanted to give Blandino a piece of his mind.
And Wetzel brings up the pass interference non-call from last year's playoffs, but fails to mention that Caldwell blasted the refs publicly during the following Monday's press conference. In fact, by nearly all accounts, Caldwell has gone above-and-beyond to speak to officials and NFL representatives to try and get this ironed out. He was even one of the bigger voices in trying to get officiating cleaned up this offseason.
Going off on another public tirade only stands to serve the media and fans. That is not his job, nor should it be. And what will "defending his players" publicly do for the team itself? Make them play better? If that's the insinuation here, it's absurd. The Lions have been losing fine on their own without the need of some rallying controversy.
2. Intimidating officials will help you get calls
This is perhaps Wetzel's most ludicrous claim. He states:
Referees are people and people respond to pressure. Coaches have been intimidating them – or at least arguing their cases – since the games began. Sometimes it even works. While that behavior can often be boorish and no team needs a coach who loses his focus, there are also quite reasonable times to offer aggressive argument.
His evidence that intimidation "works" is a study that shows a lot of the reason for home field advantage is referees' tendencies to give the home team more favorable calls. However, Wetzel never relates this evidence back to coaching or how screaming at a referee will somehow pressure the officials into penalizing the other team.
Anybody remember that guy Jim Schwartz? I'll jog your memory. He's the guy that was constantly animated on the sidelines during games. He's the guy who threw headsets and told refs to "learn the fucking rules." He's also the guy that manned the Detroit Lions to five straight seasons of being one of the most undisciplined, most penalized teams in the league. In each of his five years serving as the Lions' head coach, Detroit was in the top half of the league in penalties against, including three seasons in the top ten and two in the top three. He's also the guy who was victimized by several officiating controversies. And did his angry demeanor pressure the referees into any sort of officiating advantage? Obviously not.
3. A rallying cry can save the season
Sometimes standing up and demanding that this isn't a team the refs can roll over – that getting hosed won't be tolerated ‐ can be a rallying cry to try to salvage what's left of a season.
Here, there's just no shred of evidence this is true. It wasn't true of Schwartz and it won't be true of this team. The team is 0-4, with all chances of playoffs almost certainly gone, and their problems run much deeper than the lack of an intimidating coach.
This is a team with an offense that hasn't scored a touchdown in 15 drives. This is a defense that is without some of its best players. This is a team that fumbled on the one-yard line of a potential game-winning drive. They needed one more gift from an obscure rule to win that game, after already being gifted a muffed punt and a defensive touchdown. An angry Caldwell doesn't win that game for the Lions, or give the Lions any better chance down the road. All it does is turn them from a team that rolls over to an undisciplined, whiny team. Because when a team is losing, there is no middle ground to the media and fans.