29

May

NFC North: Jim Schwartz’s Seat Should Be Heating Up

Lions coach Jim Schwartz

Schwartz's antics should be raising some eyebrows in the Motor CIty

If you took a poll of 100 NFL fans and asked them which of the four head coaches in the NFC North was on the hottest seat entering the 2012 season, a majority very likely would choose Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith who survived a mediocre season which was followed by a major shakeup in the Bears’ front office.

In this case, the majority would be wrong. Or at least they should be.

As of late I would argue that Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz has caught Smith and perhaps even passed him as the NFC North coach in the most hot water.

To many, this seems like a preposterous line of thought. Schwartz has been a key player in turning the Lions from an 0-16 laughing stock to a team that just qualified for the playoffs for the first time in forever. He has one of the league’s best quarterback/receiver tandems in Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson and has a formidable defense to boot. Firing Schwartz seems utterly insane.

If you only looked at the on field product, it would be. Throw in events off the field, and things become a little more sketchy. With Lions defensive end Nick Fairley recently being arrested for the second time in nearly two months on top of Ndamukong Suh’s temptation to get stomping mad plus Schwartz’s handshake skills and the happy story of the Lions’ turnaround quickly takes a detour down a dark path.

In the name of fairness to Schwartz, I am not laying the poor decisions made by Fairley and others at the feet of the head coach. The poor choices were made by the players and the players alone.

However, Schwartz’s growing reputation around the league as a class A jerk is surely minimizing the amount of sympathy points he is getting from his peers.

To think Schwartz is being given the short end of the stick is too nearsighted. Take a look at Marvin Lewis with the Cincinnati Bengals. That team became a punchline around the league thanks to what seemed like a Bengal being arrested every single day. The Bengals were more notable for off the field debauchery than they were for on the field success.

21

March

Saints had Bounty on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers throws a pass against the New Orleans Saints in last season's opening game.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came down hard on the New Orleans Saints for paying bounties on opposing players. The punishment:

  • Indefinite suspension of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams
  • One-year suspension of coach Sean Payton
  • Eight-game suspension of general manager Mickey Loomis
  • Six-game suspension of assistant-head coach Joe Vitt
  • A $500,000 franchise fine
  • Forfeiture of second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013
  • Future discipline of individual players to be determined

The NFL also confirmed that the Saints had a bounty on Vikings QB Brett Favre in the NFC championship game and on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in the 2011 season opener.

Here’s more on the Rodgers’ bounty:

“Further, prior to the Saints’ opening game in 2011, Coach Payton received an email from a close associate that stated in part, “PS Greg Williams put me down for $5000 on Rogers (sic).” When shown the email during the course of the investigation, Coach Payton stated that it referred to a “bounty” on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.”

Thanks to the Saints being docked a second-round pick, the Packers will move up one spot in the second round of this year’s draft, jumping from 60th overall to pick No. 59.

My only concern with the punishment is letting the Saints keep next year’s first-round pick. What if the absence of Payton and a few key injuries cause the Saints to have a season like the Colts just had and they end up with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013? I would’ve docked the Saint’s third- or fourth-round pick this year and taken away their first-rounder next year.

Also, if any Vikings fans whine too loudly about the beating Favre took in the NFC championship game, remind them that a bounty didn’t prevent Rodgers and the Packers from beating New Orleans last season.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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13

September

Packers Beer Mug Perspective: Defending The Reputation

Packers Beer MugFor a team that finished second in fewest points allowed per game last season, the Green Bay Packers defense seemed out of sync in the 42-34 win over the New Orleans Saints. The defending Super Bowl champions picked up where they left off on offense, but the defense that was once instrumental in closing out playoff games allowed Drew Brees to pick them apart for 419 passing yards and three touchdowns.

While the game was certainly exciting to watch, it left some Packers fans wondering whether or not the defense could become a liability this year. (At least in the face of a high octane offense like the Saints.)

We must then ask ourselves:

Will the defense be able to recreate its success from last year, or are they taking a step backwards?

In bringing back our “Packers Beer Mug Perspective” series for another season, we’ll take a look at the issue from both angles, then determine whether our mug is really half empty or half full.

THE MUG IS HALF FULL

Yes, the Packers defense seemed out of sorts at times during Thursday night’s season opener. Despite starting out strong by forcing and recovering a fumble, they did little to stop Brees and company from moving the ball down the field. The Saints only punted twice the entire game, scoring on 5 of their 10 possessions.

Hidden in those facts, however, lie some important distinctions.

First and foremost is that Green Bay’s defense is a “bend but don’t break” unit. They will give up yardage on a drive, but more often than not they will stop the opponent from getting into the end zone. Last year, the Packers ranked 1st in Opponent Red Zone Scoring Attempts per Game and 2nd in Opponent Touchdowns per Game, meaning they forced offenses to settle for punts and field goal attempts.

While they did allow New Orleans to score three offensive touchdowns, they also forced them to settle twice for field goals. By comparison, the Packers’ offense never had to settle for a field goal and was 4-for-4 in red zone attempts.

Plus, you have to remember that the defense made two gigantic stops in the second half.

With 3:10 remaining in the third quarter, Saints head coach Sean Payton decided to go for a fourth down conversion on the Packers’ 7-yard line. With only one yard to go, they dialed up a play-action pass in an effort to catch the defense off guard.