Schwartz decisions dissected in disappointing year

Schwartz decisions dissected in disappointing year

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Over their last three home games, the Detroit Lions have been good enough to be ahead of some of the NFL's better teams - Green Bay, Houston and Indianapolis - with less than 2 minutes to go.

They lost every one of those games, leaving the Lions with twice as many losses as wins with four games left - including Sunday night at Green Bay - and putting coach Jim Schwartz's decisions squarely in the spotlight.

``After every game, we go through the whole game plan and what we'd do different if we had a chance again,'' Schwartz said Thursday. ``We're very self-critical.

``You just live with decisions,'' he added. ``You're always critical, you're always analytical, trying to see where you can do better - whether you're a coach or a player - but you can't lose confidence in your abilities whether you're a player or a coach.''

Schwartz's infamously made one big mistake, challenging a Texans touchdown that would've likely been overturned if he didn't lose his cool, and his coordinators have made some calls that didn't work out during three straight setbacks by a combined nine points.

Schwartz owned up to the Texans gaffe, saying he ``overreacted'' and cost his team a touchdown.

``Yeah, he threw the challenge flag, but I think a lot of coaches would've in the same situation because the guy was down,'' Lions guard Rob Sims said. ``As far as his other decisions, people who criticize them should go into coaching if they think they can do better. I think Jim has done a good job by leading us the right way and putting out fires when needed.''

Schwartz, a former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator and first-time head coach, lets Scott Linehan call plays on offense and Gunther Cunningham set up schemes on defense without telling them what they should do during any given possession. Schwartz seemed to make all the right moves last year when the Lions won 10 games for the first time since 1995 and snapped their 11-season postseason drought.

``Someone told me the other day, `You guys broke 23 franchise records last year on offense,'''' Linehan said. ``And I said, `I know, that probably elevated expectations pretty high.'''

Yes, they did.

The Lions (4-8) have fallen short of expectations in large part because they have blown legitimate chances to have a 7-5 record, one that would give the franchise a shot to make two straight playoff appearances for the first time since the mid-1990s.

In pivotal moments in the last three games, the wrong decisions were made and they haven't always been the same ones.

The Lions had chances to put Green Bay away in a 24-20 loss, but had to settle for a field goal and a six-point lead with 4:25 left when a touchdown would've sealed the win. Blame the combination of a lackluster running game and a problem with receiver Titus Young on an incomplete pass on a third-and-goal from the 9.

The Lions had chances to overcome Schwartz's ill-timed challenge flag that negated a review of Justin Forsett's 81-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of the 34-31 overtime loss to Houston. Instead, conservative play-calling to set up a game-winning field goal in overtime backfired when Joique Bell lost a combined 1 yard on two runs up the middle and Jason Hanson missed a 47-yard kick.

On the previous drive inside Houston territory, Matthew Stafford ended the possession with three straight incomplete passes - none toward Calvin Johnson - and Detroit had to punt just as it did when Stafford was sacked trying to pass on third downs on snaps from the Texans' 36 in the fourth quarter.

In the latest setback to Indy, nothing worked for Detroit when it mattered most.

Linehan called for a running play with a third-and-5 at midfield with 2 minutes left. Mikel Leshoure, who averaged less than 3 yards a carry in the game on 21 carries, was stopped for a 1-yard gain.

``Hindsight everything's always,'' Schwartz said. ``The whole idea is it has to work. If we run the ball there and we get a first down, the game's over.''

One poor punt and some Andrew Luck plays later, and the Colts were in position to win the game on fourth down with 3 seconds left from the Detroit 14.

Cunningham chose to rush just four against the rookie Luck, who moved up in the pocket to make a short pass to Donnie Avery just inside the 10. The Lions' linebackers and defensive backs were all in the end zone and couldn't even touch the receiver before he scored the game-winning TD in the 35-33 win.

What about overruling his coordinators at key points?

``Most of my stuff comes between series,'' Schwartz said. ``Hey, let's think about this next series; hey, let's have more man-to-man; hey, let's start running it more; hey, we need some more play-action.''

The Lions are the first team to lose three straight games when leading with 2 minutes left in regulation since San Diego did it in 2000, and the first since at least 1983 to blow leads that late in three home games in a row.

``You're judged by wins and losses and unfortunately, we haven't won much so of course a lot of negatively is going to go his way because he's the head man,'' defensive end Cliff Avril said. ``But players play the game, and we haven't made the one play to win games lately.''


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Why Daniel Jones might make sense if the Redskins truly believe they’re ‘close’

Why Daniel Jones might make sense if the Redskins truly believe they’re ‘close’

Daniel Jones seems unlikely to be the best quarterback in the 2019 rookie class. He also seems unlikely to be a bust.

Given the Redskins' history at the quarterback position, both recent and ancient, Jones’ lack of sexy upside might be his most attractive quality. 

Polarizing might not accurately portray this class of QBs. Divisive might be the better word. 

Kyler Murray ranks as the top prospect, and seems likely to be drafted first overall by the Arizona Cardinals. Still, some teams don’t believe he has the size or commitment to make it as an NFL signal caller.

After Murray there’s even less consensus. 

Dwayne Haskins has a big arm and great size, but only started one year in college and didn’t show much ability to read defenses in the Ohio State offense. Drew Lock makes some 'Wow!' plays, but then he also makes terrible plays. His most consistent traits are arm talent and inconsistency. 

In some order, Murray, Haskins and Lock probably mark the top three rated passers in the 2019 draft. 

Then comes Jones. 

The Duke quarterback does nothing that screams first-round pick. His combine numbers were good and his game film seems good. At the same time, there aren’t any real knocks against him either, other than Jones doesn’t have the super star potential the other three have shown. 

Jones isn’t a sexy pick. He’s not even a PG13 make-out scene pick. 

And that might be just what the Redskins want. 

For months, the Washington front office has repeatedly talked about being “close.” Close to what remains a question, but it must at least mean competing for the NFC East title and winning a playoff game. 

Well, of all the rookie passers, Jones might be the one that presents the least risk. He might not make jaw dropping deep throws or electric moves outside of the pocket, but he probably won’t throw 20-plus interceptions either. 

Last year, the Redskins traded for Alex Smith to run their offense. Smith’s best traits are controlling the football and making the smart, not sexy, play. 

You know what rookie could fit that mold? 

Certainly isn’t Murray. Probably isn’t Lock. And Haskins likely needs to sit a year to learn NFL offenses. 

Jones, however, has been playing in a pro system for years at Duke. He’s been coached by the Manning-Whisperer in David Cutcliffe. 

Veteran NFL personnel executives believe in Jones in a major way. Gil Brandt, a Hall of Fame former Cowboys GM, compared Jones to Peyton Manning. Seriously.

"When you watch him and you go back (20) years and watch Peyton Manning, you are watching the same guy. He's athletic," Brandt said on an SiriusXM pre-draft conference call. "He doesn't have a rocket for an arm, but neither did Peyton. Very smart."

ESPN's Mel Kiper believes Jones will be the best QB in this draft. Former Redskins GM Charley Casserly thinks Jones is the most ready for the NFL of any 2019 passer.

Add all of that up, and the Redskins taking Jones with the 15th overall pick starts to make sense. Then go back and listen to some Jay Gruden quotes, and it makes even more sense. 

Speaking at the NFL League Meetings in Arizona last month, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden explained that he likes winning low-scoring, grinding football games. 

"You try to protect the football and let the strength of your football team carry you through the tough times and hopefully your team or offense or special teams or offense will come through and make a play at a critical time," Gruden said. " It was a great recipe for us early. I like playing that way."

Of the rookie quarterbacks the Redskins might be able to get, Jones could be best suited for that style, especially in 2019. Not every analyst believes in Jones, including NBC Sports' Chris Simms. He doesn't even rate Jones in the top four QBs available this fall.

Regardless of the analysts, the Redskins believe they’re close, and need a quarterback that won’t lose them games. Of the rookie collection, Jones best fits that role.

Just by his risk taking nature, Lock will probably lose some games as a rookie. Maybe throughout his career. Haskins can play but the speed of the NFL will require a major adjustment for his game. Murray is dynamic, but his skill set requires a complete offensive overhaul for whatever team takes him. 

Add any of those three QBs to the Redskins and it’s hard to imagine the team competing for the playoffs in 2019. In the penultimate year of his contract, Gruden needs to compete for the playoffs in 2019. 

Last season, ugly or not, the Redskins legitimately looked on their way to a playoff spot. In Week 10, the team was 6-3. Injuries derailed those plans, but the roadmap was established. 

Even at 6-3, the Redskins hardly played aesthetically pleasing football. It sure as hell wasn't sexy. 

If the Redskins want to recreate that formula, and build on it for the future, Jones might be the best pick. 

In football, in sports, even in life, sometimes the best course of action is to avoid a major mistake and play it safe. 

The Redskins tried to that last year with Smith, but a broken leg disrupted the plan. 

It's entirely possible the Redskins don't take a quarterback in the first round, but if they do, Jones offers the best chance for a mulligan.


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Baltimore Orioles Roundup: Late comeback falls short as Twins complete sweep

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Baltimore Orioles Roundup: Late comeback falls short as Twins complete sweep

After dropping both games of the doubleheader on Saturday, the Orioles comeback bid was just short on Sunday, as they fell 4-3 to the Minnesota Twins.

The loss marked a sweep for the Twins, and the second time the Orioles have been swept in Camden Yards this season.



Outfielder Dwight Smith, Jr. is not expected to miss time due to injury, according to manager Brandon Hyde. Smith was removed during Sunday's loss with what was considered to be right quad tightness. While he may be held out a couple days, do not expect him to end up on the injured list.

Second baseman Johnathan Villar continues to impress early on in 2019. Villar stole his sixth base of the season (in 23 games) on Sunday, also adding three hits and an RBI during the loss. He continues to be a bright spot for a young Orioles team.

The Orioles defense did not help starting pitcher Dylan Bundy, who gave up four runs (two earned) over six innings on Sunday. In the first inning, Smith Jr. lost a fly ball in the sun that resulted in a three-base error, leading to two runs. Regardless, Bundy moved to 0-3 on the season with a 6.56 ERA, neither of which is very good.


Relief pitcher Taylor Rogers earned his second save of the series -- and third of the season -- on Sunday. Despite allowing a run, he could be emerging as the Twins go-to ninth inning arm, but manager Rocco Baldelli could continue to move forward on a game-by-game basis.

Outfielder Max Kepler missed the entire series against Baltimore with what was described as just an illness. His health is something to keep an eye on moving forward, as Kepler has not played since Thursday.


Outfielder Jon Jay is traveling with the team, but it is unlikely if he will play in any of games in the upcoming series against Baltimore. Jay has yet to play this season after suffering a hip injury late in Spring Training.

Starting pitcher Lucas Giolito also will miss the entire series against Baltimore with a hamstring injury that sent him to the injured list. The right-hander has not had the best start to 2019, as he has a 5.30 ERA through four starts.


OF Dwight Smith, Jr.: Quadriceps, day-to-day

RP Richard Bleier: Shoulder, 10-Day IL

SP Nate Karns: Arm, 10-Day IL

DH Mark Trumbo: Knee, 60-Day IL


Monday 4/22: White Sox @ Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards 

Tuesday 4/23: White Sox @ Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards 

Wednesday 4/24: White Sox @ Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards 

Source: Rotoworld