When you are using effort to trump talent. When you are using determination to out hustle skill. When creativity upends convention. When you are the underdog.
This piece from the New Yorker talks about a girls basketball team that used the full-court press to get wins by using effort AND unconventional tactics to overcome lack of talent. It is a long article, but a good one – and to me highlights the very reason Detroit went 0-16.
It comes down to one word: Convention
Detroit “played by the rules”. 3 downs, punt. Traditional formations. Base Defense. Minimal Blitzing. Fair Catch. I wrote before the Green Bay game to end the season that I wanted to see lots of crazy stuff on the field just to throw the other team off and give Detroit a chance – but knew that I wouldn’t.
A quote from the New Yorker article that really sums it up:
David’s victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time. The political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft recently looked at every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 per cent of the cases. That is a remarkable fact. Arreguín-Toft was analyzing conflicts in which one side was at least ten times as powerful—in terms of armed might and population—as its opponent, and even in those lopsided contests the underdog won almost a third of the time.
In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David initially put on a coat of mail and a brass helmet and girded himself with a sword: he prepared to wage a conventional battle of swords against Goliath. But then he stopped. “I cannot walk in these, for I am unused to it,” he said (in Robert Alter’s translation), and picked up those five smooth stones. What happened, Arreguín-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David’s winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, Arreguín-Toft concluded, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.”
When you play by the “rules”, you get stepped on. Goliath puts another tally mark on his massive armor, and goes his merry way leaving behind the massacre at his feet.
Lets not kid ourselves here, Lions fans: Detroit did not field a highly talented team last season. Top to bottom there was no way any sober individual could say the Lions had as much talent as the Chargers, the Steelers, the Eagles, the Giants, or even Green Bay. But that doesn’t mean there was no talent at all.
I’ve looked at what led up to 2008 – now we are in to the season itself. It wasn’t talent or players efforts alone that led to an historic zero. It wasn’t just the GM that built the entity. It was also largely on the shoulders of the coaches.
As I’ve gone over before, not only were the coaches unable, unwilling, or incapable of adjusting in-game – they also failed to do so from week to week! Teams used the same base plays against the same Lions defensive look for long running gains week after week. For TD passes week after week.
Still, we saw the Lions come out, line up in the same formations, and end up with the same result. It was inevitable from the time they took the field.
Is there hope, Lions fans? Next up -- “Road to 0-16: Beyond the Zero”