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Friday, November 21, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 10/21/2001

When going got tough, Lions' Batch got going

I'm not a fan of Charlie Batch, but I'm a big admirer of tough-minded people. Batch earned a second chance to play quarterback for the Detroit Lions.

Give credit where it's due. Batch deserves a hearty slap on the back after receiving a swift kick in the pants.

At 0-4, maybe the Lions have bottomed out also. Let's hope.

We can only hope that Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg and his staff have a plan as to where to go from here. What they've done to this point isn't working. What they've done to this point is embarrass their quarterback, lower team morale and frustrate their lemming-like fans.

Put yourself in Batch's shoes. His new boss didn't endorse him for the job. Ditto for his boss' boss. He was jerked from the lineup after the first game of the season and replaced with a backup who was spoon-fed the starting job and immediately showed why he should be chained to the bench.

A weak-minded player would have accepted his fate and learned to like holding a clipboard. Instead, desperation was Batch's motivator.

He worked harder in practice. He made quicker reads, got rid of the ball quicker, and improved his accuracy.

He won back the respect of his teammates. Gained grudging respect from his bosses.

After wiping egg off his face, Mornhinweg re-inserted Batch in the lineup because he gives the Lions the best opportunity to win.

Mornhinweg said all the right things, of course.

That the three-week layoff allowed Batch to rest his sore right knee. That when he tutored Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia in San Francisco, Garcia came back strong after being benched for three games a couple of years ago.

The underlying message is that the West Coast offense works. It works in San Franciso, it works in Green Bay. And it will work in Detroit - Batch, or no Batch.

In his first start back against Minnesota last week, Batch played out of his mind. He passed for a career-high 345 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. And if not for the bungling decision made by Germane Crowell on what turned out to be the final play of the game, Batch might have rallied the Lions from a 25-point deficit against the Vikings.

Batch lost the comfort zone he held with former coach Bobby Ross. Batch never had to watch his back when Ross was coach. No one has his back now.

Despite Batch's return to the starting lineup, Mornhinweg is still going to find playing time for rookie quarterback Mike McMahon.

Batch isn't a rookie. He's an NFL veteran with only a so-so track record who needs to have some success this season.

I think Batch's new circle-the-wagons attitude is great. There's nothing wrong with being a little paranoid.

Like Batch, the only way the Lions are going to improve with their scheme and their current roster is to keep doing what they're doing and try to improve the things they are doing wrong. They must get as much mileage as possible out of their players until they replace them with better players.

When it comes to coaches and quarterbacks, you get only one chance to make a first impression. Batch is one of the lucky ones. He received a second chance.

John Harris is a Blade sports columnist. E-mail him at jharris@theblade.com.



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