We are doing it again. We are making a big deal of a sideline explosion during an NFL game. This time, it’s regarding the not-so-pleasant exchange between Detroit Lions defensive back coach Aubrey Pleasant and cornerback Jeff Okudah. Pleasant got into the face of Okudah after a blown assignment during a 41-33 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field.
He pointed a wicked finger into his chest and yelled, “Do your job.” Safety Tracy Walker and linebacker Alex Anzalone stepped in between the two men.
Fans being shocked and outraged is not surprising.
What is surprising is former NFL wide receiver Steve Smith saying the incident showed that the Lions are a shit show. Maybe I should not be surprised. Smith blew his gasket on the sidelines several times as a player and admitted he suffered from depression. Smith received suspensions and fines for his behavior. He is probably upset that coaches receive different treatment when they blow their top during games.
“We need to stop upping our standards for players and lowering our standards for coaches,” Smith said. “We need to have them on the same playing field.”
Smith didn’t stop there either.
“We need to start revoking some of these dumb-ass coaches’ opportunities because that shit show they got in Detroit, it’s a train wreck waiting to happen, and I’m sitting there, got my popcorn waiting for it.”
I cannot tell you how many NFL players have told me not to look too deeply into sideline blowups during NFL games.
The sideline is filled with emotion and is a powder keg that can explode at any time. I’ve heard there are five to six of these disruptions during each game. They only become news when cameras capture them.
“I don’t like it, but I don’t dislike it,” head coach Dan Campbell told 97.1 The Ticket. “I mean, it’s what goes on the sidelines. It’s high emotions, man. It’s high stress. And sometimes, it’s the only way to communicate at times. You have to get through. You gotta break through that barrier. And sometimes, there’s players, and there’s coaches when you get one blow up, now you can finally get some work done if that makes sense.”
What if your boss got in your grill and pointed his finger into your face? You would not like it, and many folks would call the company’s human resources. I keep telling people that the professional sports world does not reflect the real world. People react with more emotion in the sports world than they do in real life.
This situation is not a human resources issue. It is the way the profession is.
There is more of a sense of urgency in sports where every second counts. We also do not know the relationship between Pleasant and Okudah.
Some athletes can handle yelling from a coach.
And Pleasant is trying to do Okudah a favor.
The third pick in last year’s draft has been a bust with the Lions. Pleasant might be trying to light a fire under the young man because he could be out of a job if he does not pick up his play.
You know what the NFL stands for, right? Not For Long.
So this could be a sign of frustration, but also desperation by Pleasant. He does not want Okudah to lose his job. It is also worth mentioning that Pleasant hugged it out with Okudah later in the game. Often that is how these flare-ups end.
Back in the day, Bad Boys Pistons coach Chuck Daly often blistered center John Salley, during practice and games. He knew Salley treated criticism like water off a duck’s back. Daly also knew he could not treat star player Isiah Thomas the same. So Salley became the whipping boy even if somebody else screwed up.