By Ashley Dunkak
FORD FIELD (CBS DETROIT) – When the Detroit Lions elected to run out the last 23 seconds of regulation rather than going for a late big play against the New York Giants this Sunday, frustrations boiled over. Fans booed loudly, and Lions coach Jim Schwartz appeared to respond to the unhappy crowd.
Various fans tweeted that Schwartz had yelled, “What the f— are you booing at?”
Video of the moment, though it does seem to show Schwartz turning around toward the stands and swearing, is hardly conclusive as far as whom Schwartz addressed and what exactly was said. He had his headset on at the time, so he could have been talking to coordinators.
Asked after the game if he responded to fans before overtime, Schwartz said no, but he condemned the booing.
“I wasn’t addressing the crowd,” Schwartz said. “I was just trying to get our team fired up.
“I was disappointed,” Schwartz added. “We were getting ready to go to overtime right there. Our crowd is great for us, and they support us. I thought our team needed a lift right there. We didn’t need to feel bad at that point. We just intercepted the ball that got us to overtime. I thought that just trying to get our team ready – and that’s a tough situation when your players are getting booed – you want to kep them fired up, and that’s what I was trying to do right there.”
While Schwartz did not confess to yelling at fans, he did admit he took notice of the negative reaction.
“I don’t know how you cannot,” Schwartz said. “At that point we were taking a knee, and we were just letting the clock run out after we didn’t get the first down in that situation, and we were trying to gather the troops and get ready for overtime. I think at that point it wasn’t like we were running another play in that situation and I was doing that.
“We were getting ready to go into overtime,” Schwartz continued. “Our fans have been great for us. We needed them on our side in overtime.”
Wide receiver Nate Burleson supported the coach for whatever interaction may have occurred.
“I’d rather have a coach that’s frustrated and emotionally tied in to what’s going on than a coach that acts oblivious to the surroundings and the energy of the game,” Burleson said. “I’m with him.”
Running back Reggie Bush, who after the game sat silent and alone at his locker for a considerable amount of time before getting dressed and turning to face reporters, said it was troubling to get booed by the home crowd during a game in which the Lions fought back multiple times and had chances to win up to the very end.
“It’s extremely tough,” running back Reggie Bush said. “We want to be able to please the fans. Without the fans, a lot of this wouldn’t be possible, so it’s extremely tough when you’re at home and you’re playing and your fans are booing you. There’s nothing other way to put it.
“We’re human,” Bush said. “We’re not mannequins out there. Obviously it gets to us. We have emotions too. We hear the boos, and obviously it’s tough.”
Lions players talked throughout the season about the importance of succeeding because they know that otherwise many nameplates on lockers will be changing.
Recent speculation, though, has revolved much more around the future of Schwartz rather than any individual player. Schwartz stayed after the 4-12 season of 2012, but with the talent the Lions have this year, it seems unlikely he will keep his job.
Players routinely supported Schwartz, taking the blame themselves for the collapse of the season. After the game, the coach himself brushed back speculation about his job yet again.
Between the way the Lions have fallen apart, going 1-5 in the last six games after beginning the season 6-3, and the outburst toward the fans, Schwartz might not be around to make the no-comment comments about his job much longer.
Burleson, though, would caution fans about being too excited at that prospect.
“Be careful what you ask for,” Burleson said. “I’ve been in situations and I’ve seen teams blow things up from the inside, and the next year or two or few isn’t what they want, the organization or the fans.
“Jim’s a good coach,” Burleson added, “and I will loudly and proudly say he doesn’t deserve to be let go or be fired.”