Was Detroit Head Coach Jim Schwartz the Biggest Turkey on Thanksgiving?
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: November 23, 2012
Football is a game of inches. Had Detroit kicker Jason Hanson's overtime field goal attempt drifted mere inches to the right, Jim Schwartz would be feeling a lot less heat this morning. The Lions head coach cost his team the opportunity to review a Houston scoring play (that had less than a snowball's chance in Hell of being upheld upon automatic review) when he impulsively tossed his red challenge flag to the ground shortly after the Texans were awarded six points.
Houston running back Justin Forsett carried the ball for a total of 81 yards and a touchdown, but both his elbow and knee hit the ground toward the beginning of the run. Because no whistle was blown, Forsett continued running to the end zone, where he was credited with a touchdown. In an average NFL game, the opposing coach may know a touchdown shouldn't count, but he also maintains a modicum of composure, waiting for the officials to automatically review the play. Because officials now review every. single. scoring. play. This standard was introduced before the 2011 season, meaning yesterday was the 28th game (27 regular season, one playoff) Schwartz has coached in the era of automatic review. As soon as a coach throws a red flag in response to a play that will be automatically reviewed, he forfeits the right to automatic review. So what on EARTH was he thinking? According to Schwartz himself, he really wasn't:
"I overreacted. I was so mad that they didn’t call him down ’cause he was obviously down on the field. I had the flag out of my pocket before he even scored the touchdown. That’s all my fault. I overreacted in that situation and I cost us a touchdown."
It's a relief to hear Schwartz assign himself blame in this scenario and to acknowledge the rashness with which he conducted himself. There's absolutely no way to know for sure that the Texans wouldn't have eventually scored on the drive, but they absolutely hadn't scored on Forsett's run. And if Schwartz had exercised a little patience, the officials would have undoubtedly noticed their error and rectified the situation immediately. Which brings me to the issue I'm sure most (non-Houston) football fans have taken with the entire series of events: what the heck kind of punishment is that?!
It makes sense, in the interest of timeliness, to exert some form of punishment when throwing a flag on an automatically reviewed play. If officials simply pick up and hand back the offending flag, what's to stop coaches from delaying the game after every scoring play or turnover? But the entire purpose of auto-review is to make sure officials have ample opportunity to do their job correctly. Removing the review altogether as punishment compromises the integrity of the game and prevents NFL officials from calling a came cleanly. Head coaches could easily be chastened by losing a timeout or a future challenge, right? That would surely incentivize them to keep flags in their pockets.
Detroit's playoff hopes may be all but nonexistent after yesterday's brutal loss, but you can guarantee Jim Schwartz has learned his lesson and will be keeping his flag to himself without explicit clearance from his coordinators upstairs for the foreseeable future.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @KimOHaraTFG
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