On Monday afternoon, the Detroit Lions made the surprising move of firing defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant. It wasn’t necessarily a surprise based on the play of the Lions secondary, which was horrible on Sunday against the Dolphins and bad for most of the entire season. However, it was a surprise given how well-respected Pleasant is by the players and how well-regarded he seems to be across the league.
We’re not even two years into the Dan Campbell era, and the team has already parted ways with three coaches: former offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, former linebackers coach Mark DeLeone, and Pleasant.
This, however, was the first move made in the middle of a season, and that’s never a great sign of a team’s stability. Of course, the team being 1-6 through seven games is all you really need to know to figure out the current status of the team.
So was this a move that was justified and necessary? Or was this a desperate move of a head coach who is starting to feel the heat in his seat rise?
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Were the Lions right to fire Aubrey Pleasant?
My answer: I’m not one to call for a coach’s job. I don’t like doing it, especially when 90 percent of their job is done behind closed doors. From an outsider's perspective, it’s impossible to parse through who is failing where. If a player isn’t progressing, is it the coordinator’s fault for not putting them in a position to succeed? Is it the positional coach’s fault for not teaching them well enough? Is it the general manager’s fault for drafting a poor player?
It’s impossible to know the answer to these questions, and that makes it hard to judge how Pleasant has been at his job. It certainly doesn’t seem like he was given a very easy job with a pretty bare cupboard of healthy players since joining Detroit. Some players improved under Pleasant (Jeff Okudah, Tracy Walker), but others undeniably got worse (Amani Oruwariye, AJ Parker).
The one thing I’m fairly certain about, though, is Sunday’s game against the Dolphins played a big factor. Campbell said his decision was based more on an accumulation of the past seven games, but on Sunday night, I saw a side of Campbell I hadn’t seen before. At the time, I thought he was on the verge of blaming his players. He was clearly mad and frustrated that the game plan they had developed all week—to be physical with Miami’s receivers—wasn’t being followed by the defensive backs.
In retrospect, it was likely Pleasant that Campbell was mad at in that moment.
Does that mean Campbell was being reactionary by firing Pleasant? It’s possible, but Campbell said he thought about it all night, barely slept, and when he woke up in the morning, he had made the decision.
Whether it was reactionary or not, it’s undeniable that the Lions’ secondary has underperformed this year, and this is a results-based league. So in that sense, it is hard to argue against this move. Still, it’s a concerning sign about the health of this franchise right now.
Was firing Aubrey Pleasant the right move?
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