Jim Schwartz is a fine coach who has done a good job rebuilding the Lions from a decade buried in the ashes. Now both the Lions and the NFL are about to find out if he's a leader, too.
Sometimes being a leader requires deflecting the heat. Other times it requires absorbing it. Occasionally it simply requires stating the truth. In Detroit, it's time for some hard truth.
Not simply the truth about what Ndamukong Suh did on Thanksgiving, when he purposely stomped on Packers OG Evan Dietrich-Smith after grinding his head into the turf three times for daring to block him to the ground, but the larger truth about what Suh and Schwartz's team are in danger of becoming.
What that is, sadly, is a cheap-shot operation that doesn't understand the difference between aggression and selfishness or right and wrong. After Suh was caught red-handed on videotape stomping on Dietrich-Smith's arm after he got up from being blocked, he doubled the felony by insisting he had not "by any means'' done that which he'd clearly done. Technically he was right. He hadn't done it "by any means.'' He'd done it by every means.
Suh was so heinously guilty that former NFL head of officials Mike Pereira termed him "not dirty, he's filthy.'' Anyone with an ounce of sense should be ashamed to see such a thing written after your name.
Now the Lions will have to play without him for some time and, frankly, however long that is, it isn't long enough. Not simply because of his flagrant foul but because he's committed NINE personal fouls in less than two years, more than any other player, and been fined $42,000 this season for previous violent stupidity.
Worse, Suh recently met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss his overzealousness and claimed he now understood where the boundary line is. Clearly he does not, and Schwartz needs to ask himself why because, one must recall, he was the guy coaching Albert Haynesworth five years ago when Haynesworth stomped on the head of Andre Gurode, resulting in 20 stitches and a five-game suspension without pay, the largest in NFL history to that point.
Once is a coincidence. Twice is a trend. Schwartz needs to sit down and ask himself why this has now happened twice on his watch.
What is sad is that Suh has so much talent he needs to do none of this to be a commanding force yet persists in hurting his reputation, his team's chances and credulity, the latter coming when he makes statements like: "My intentions were not to kick anybody, as I did not.''
"...a lot of people are going to...create their own story lines...but I know what I did and the man upstairs knows what I did.''
Yes, and what the man upstairs knows is that it is Suh who created his own story line. Jim Schwartz knows it, too. So what does he do next?
Does he lead or make excuses? Does he call it what it was — filthy fits — or claim it was just a big misunderstanding? More importantly, is Jim Schwartz going to stop it before Suh and the Lions taint themselves with an ugly brush that stains deep?
When they start calling you "filthy,'' you're not even the Raiders any more. You're just shameful.
Or are you shameless?