There were still 51 seconds left in the second quarter of the Lions' game with the Cardinals on Nov. 1, when Detroit quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn began preparing rookie Charlie Batch for the following week's game against the Eagles. After throwing his third interception of the half, Batch took his spot next to Zorn on the Detroit bench. Zorn was about to tell Batch that he was being benched for the first time in his six-game NFL career, but before that Zorn wanted Batch to understand why his pass had been picked off.
"What did you see?" Zorn asked. Batch explained that he was throwing over the middle to tight end David Sloan. Zorn then produced a photograph of the defense on that play (shot from upstairs). Batch hadn't realized that the Arizona defenders were taking deeper drops than usual, and the result was an easy interception by Cardinals free safety Kwamie Lassiter. "For this defense that was not the right read," Zorn said.
The coach was more concerned with how his pupil would react to the benching. "I told him, 'Don't overreact. Let's watch films on Monday and see what took place,' " says Zorn, an NFL quarterback of 11 seasons who played for the Seahawks, Packers and Bucs. "First thing Monday at the quarterbacks meeting, I had to see how he felt about being pulled and get him to talk about it."
As soon as Batch and fellow quarterbacks Frank Reich and Scott Mitchell took their seats, Zorn addressed the class pup. "You are not always going to be benched when things go bad," Zorn told Batch. "At some point you are going to have to play through it." Batch's response was just what Zorn wanted to hear. "That's what I wanted to do, keep playing," Batch said. "I got us into trouble. I wanted to get us out."
Convinced that Batch had the right mind-set, Zorn spent much of the rest of the week trying to break two of the rookie's destructive habits. Batch has repeatedly missed receivers on corner routes because he throws to a spot before considering what impact the defender's positioning might have on the receiver's angle. "He can't anticipate," says Zorn. "He has to wait for the receiver to break." Batch has also been unnecessarily checking off at the line after misreading defensive adjustments. The best remedy for this deficiency is experience. "When I explain these things to veterans, I'm just refreshing their memories," Zorn says. "Batch is learning it for the first time."
Batch was back for some on-the-job training on Sunday. He completed 14 of 27 passes for 146 yards, and while he didn't throw any interceptions, he didn't get the Lions into the end zone either. He did drive them 40 yards in the final 3:23, but the Eagles hung on for a 10-9 win when Jason Hanson's 58-yard field goal attempt fell short. "He's a rookie, and we're going to wade through," Lions coach Bobby Ross said afterward. "We're struggling with some things, relative to reads. But we're going to work through that."