Lions coach Pleasant regrets becoming clickbait, not coaching his players hard
Allen Park — Detroit Lions coach Aubrey Pleasant both does and doesn't regret his heated Week 1 sideline exchange with cornerback Jeff Okudah.
The moment, caught by the broadcast cameras, showed Pleasant chewing out his young, star pupil after a mistake. What the coach doesn't regret is being hard on Okudah, aggressively demanding better from the former first-round pick.
But the way the moment was portrayed, particularly by the national media, who didn't have a pre-existing understanding of the coach-player dynamic the two had established through the offseason, was a learning moment for Pleasant.
"I learned you don't want to be clickbait," Pleasant said. "Perception is reality, at times. I also learned I communicate very well and sometimes I don't have to do it in that nature, to say the least."
Pleasant said the exchange was sparked after Okudah failed to play a pass the way he was coached, blowing an opportunity at an interception. But Pleasant also noted a second moment, which didn't get as much attention, where he embraced Okudah after a mistake later in the contest.
"I was frustrated, because on that play, he had a chance to make an interception and he didn't push," Pleasant said. "We had been talking about it for a while, so it got kinda fisticuffs, got kinda going. Then, later on, there was a more defeating play and I embraced him with a lot of love. I know, for the outside eyes, sometimes that's tough to understand, but that's the nature of this game. You have high stakes and high rewards."
In the days following the exchange, Pleasant was criticized by former players, including former Lions Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo, as well as analysts such as Steve Smith, from the NFL Network.
"I think it kind of goes to something that we need to address," Smith said during a conference call on Tuesday. "The DB coach or the pass coordinator for the Detroit Lions, how he was dog cussing that third overall pick with the Detroit Lions. I thought that’s interesting.
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"They need to protect him the same way they need to protect a quarterback because we all know if the way that coach was talking to him, if Jeff would have responded in a way that coach was, they’d be suspending (him) and saying that player is detrimental. So I think we need to start holding coaches accountable and … start calling some of these coaches out to show that you can’t expect us players to be a certain way and then you not be that certain way."
Okudah, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in that Week 1 game, has not commented since the sideline incident made the rounds, but a few of his teammates jumped Pleasant's defense that week.
"I'm going to make it real clear, everyone has particular relationships with Coach Pleasant," Amani Oruwariye said. "He came here and has really challenged everyone because he sees the potential in everyone. He really just wants to light that (fire) under every single guy, and he has different relationships, different ways of going about that with every one. But at the end of the day, it's two guys just wanting to be great."
Pleasant said his relationship with Okudah remains unchanged and positive as the injured corner continues to be involved with the team on a day-to-day basis.
"He's still here, he's been in the meetings," Pleasant said. "When he left to have his surgery, I talked to him that night. He left to be with his family and I talked to him that day.
"I hope that you guys understand that what I'm perceived to be is what I really am," Pleasant said. "There's nothing that's fraud or fake about it. The reason I am able to coach that hard is because of the relationships that I have. More importantly, if what was seen was to be bad, don't you think some of his teammates would have said something, or somebody would have come up and done something? But it's the nature of the game. He needs to get better, I need to get better, we all need to get better, and the relationship is great."
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