E-mail Dan
 Radio affiliates
 Dan's bio
 Rob's bio
 Audio highlights
December 06, 2001

Ross forges unwanted legacy
By Dan Patrick

In the high-pressure world of professional football, no one is under more pressure than the head coach. And no one knows it more than the coaches.

Which is why the news that Bobby Ross quit Monday as coach of the Detroit Lions was so striking. He apparently can't handle the stress of losing anymore. But it's part of the job. Always has been.

Bobby Ross
Former Lions coach Bobby Ross resigned Nov. 6 when Detroit's record was 5-4.

If it was all getting to be too much for him, he should have quit in July. So Ross didn't gracefully step down from a job, he clumsily stepped out of the game, tarnishing his reputation irreparably.

If you're coaching a team that is 1-7 or 2-8, then it's easy to see why you tank it. You're having a lousy year and you are not doing a good job.

So it was no shock when Bruce Coslet quit the Bengals back in September. His regime was getting nowhere after four years in Cincinnati. And they were 0-3 .

But Ross' Lions were 5-4 and he had a history of some success in Detroit, making the playoffs twice. And since 9-7 will probably get you in the playoffs this year, Ross was only four wins from another postseason appearance.

Coaches endlessly implore players to stick it out, make the sacrifices and never quit. Coaches don't want players to quit on individual plays, let alone the entire season. So Ross' bailout is really a cop-out.

I understand that he hates losing, but all coaches do. I understand being tired and worn out. But it's a rarity when a coach doesn't work from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the NFL. It comes with the territory and Ross knows that. He should have had the guts to finish what he started.

There is some speculation that he lost the team. Veterans like Robert Porcher and Herman Moore have criticized him. But, again, his team was 5-4 and the playoffs were a real possibility. A 2-7 coach may have lost the team.

Bobby Ross lost himself and the things that made him a successful coach in college and the pros.

Ross arrived in Detroit two years after taking the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl. He promised to take the Lions to those heights and the jury was still out on whether he could.

With the rest of this season and next year still to go on his contract, Ross had a chance to give it a real effort and then assess things. Would they have made it to the big game? We'll never know because Ross succumbed to the midseason "pressure" of being 5-4.

So he bailed out. Now his legacy will include two playoff losses, the premature retirement of the best player in Lions history, Barry Sanders, and the rightful label of quitter. The Sanders thing was not all his fault, obviously, but you lose the benefit of the doubt when you quit on a team and a city.

In the end, I just have one question: If Bobby Ross hates losing so much, why would he willingly commit the ultimate act of the loser and quit a job before it's over?

Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories

Dan Patrick page: 2001 archive

Dan Patrick: 2001 Outtakes archive

Dan Patrick: Ask Dan archive

Rob Dibble: 2001 archive

Dan Patrick Archive


Ron Jaworski and Dan Patrick debate the manner in which Bobby Ross left the Lions.
wav: 2103 k
Real: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

ESPN NFL analyst Kevin Greene on the impact of Bobby Ross stepping down in Detroit.
wav: 515 k
Real: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6's John Clayton looks a little deeper into the Detroit Lions coaching situation.
wav: 245 k
Real: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

Lions linebacker Stephen Boyd says Bobby Ross seemed burned out on football.
wav: 103 k
Real: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

ESPN's Mike Golic has a bit of a problem with Bobby Ross' decision to resign.
wav: 459 k
Real: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

ESPN's Sean Salisbury is not ready to call Bobby Ross a quitter.
wav: 294 k
Real: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6