On the plus side, Raiola been one of the strongest leaders on the team, enduring a football purgatory with the Lions since he was drafted in 2002 and rarely missing a snap. Negatively, he's flipped the bird to his own loyal fans in the midst of an 0-16 season, and told opposing fans to wet their whistle with his reproductive organ after a big road victory around the holiday season. Based on each of these factors alone, you either love him or hate him. Rarely is there a middle ground.
Sunday, though, Raiola took unneeded heat after his team folded in overtime. As the story goes, Jim Schwartz never intended to go for it on fourth and short deep within Tennessee territory. The Lions only intended to try and draw the Titans offside with a hard count, but Raiola incorrectly read the lips of his quarterback Shaun Hill and snapped the ball. That snap was never supposed to happen. Hill was stuffed short. Everything ended in disaster.
With that bit of knowledge, Detroit had their perfect scapegoat. As expected, Raiola was devastated by the gaffe. As a leader, he's taking complete responsibility for everything that happened as you might expect, saying the play "still hurts" because he "let all of his people down." There's no need for him to fall on his sword that much, though. As tough as it has been to defend you at times, this one's not all on you, Dom.
First and foremost, this one's completely on Schwartz and the coaching staff. The decision to send the offense out on fourth down in overtime was confounding. Forget the excuses about poor defensive play and bad special teams coverage. If you've got a chance to extend the game at all in overtime, you do it and don't think twice. You simply live to play another defensive series in a wild game. The Lions had moved the ball well enough that they still could have gotten the job done with a touchdown later. It wasn't all or nothing at that point.
Schwartz himself lightly took the fall Monday. "We couldn't tie the game, and that's on me," he said during his weekly press conference. He even went so far as to call the decision to send the offense out over-aggressive coaching. That's true, so where's the outrage with Schwartz's choice? This mistake was the worst in a Detroit football overtime since Marty Mornhinwheg took the wind in Chicago. Mornhinwheg became an infamous lightning rod, while Schwartz will likely see this incident get casually brushed under the rug. It seems that winning, however tepid, does cure plenty of ills in a city.
This isn't totally Raiola's fault. In this instance, blame is a definite two way street. However history judges what should now be referred to as the "snap flap" in Michigan, make sure to remember that the play never should have had the chance to happen in the first place.
That begins and ends with Schwartz's poor decision making.
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