The Detroit Lions are going to be on their third head coach of the season on Saturday. They are going to have a new offensive and defensive play caller—both of whom have never called plays at any level. Their entire defensive coaching staff will be watching from afar.
And this all could have easily been avoided, but the NFL appears to be acting stubborn for stubborness’ sake.
According to Lions interim head coach Darrell Bevell, who will miss Saturday’s game along with over half of the Lions’ coaching staff due to close contact with someone who tested positive to COVID-19, all of the Lions’ coaches would be eligible to return to the team on Sunday. This suggests their close contact was on Monday, and their five day quarantine would have cleared them by Sunday.
However, as the Lions pushed for a postponement, the NFL denied their request, per Bevell.
“I know that we did push to have things that can help us,” Bevell said in regards to postponement talk. “It’s between the league and the club on that. I am disappointed. I know if the game was on Sunday, I’d be there, because the timeframe would be up, and really, all of these coaches would be there. So I think that’s the most disappointing part.”
Given how much the NFL has already adjusted the 2020 schedule to accommodate early COVID disruptions, it seems absolutely ridiculous that they couldn’t move this game to a normal football Sunday to help a team dealing with a coaching crisis. This will be the first time any NFL team has had to play without their head coach due to COVID, let alone their entire defensive staff, too. A one-day bump is an easy fix to present a fair game for both.
Bevell was asked if he thinks the Lions’ 5-9 record had anything to do with the league’s unwillingness to budge, but he refused to answer.
“I really couldn’t speculate on that.”
This could be a punishment to the Lions for not following COVID protocols. There is an unconfirmed report out there that one Lions coach was not wearing his contact tracing device at all times and another coach had several people in his office, which is against the league’s strict protocol.
Still, this seems like an unreasonably unfair situation to put those players and coaches in, when a solution is so easily available. It seems like just another situation that would only happen to our Detroit Lions.
UPDATE: Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press got clarification as to why certain NFL games were postponed, while others—including this one—were not. Here’s what NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said to the Free Press:
“We make all reasonable efforts, consistent with underlying health and safety principles, to play all regular and postseason games as scheduled. This is grounded in a commitment to the players, the clubs and fans. Adhering to the jointly developed NFL-NFLPA protocols, it was determined by medical professionals that there was no risk of additional transmission of the virus among the team or facility and the game could be played safely as scheduled.”
In other words, in other situations, it appears the outbreak was still happening, so there was a risk to play games. In this case, the outbreak appears to have been contained with just a player and a staff member. The postponements were to protect players, not to even the competitive field.