Posted December 30, 2013

Jim Schwartz fired by Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions, NFC North
Jim Schwartz went 29-51 in five seasons as head coach of the Lions.

Jim Schwartz went 29-51 in five seasons as head coach of the Lions. (Paul Sancya/AP)

Much like Mike Shanahan in Washington, Jim Schwartz appeared to have cemented his status as the Lions’ coaching savior by guiding his team to a playoff spot. Detroit bowed out rather meekly in the 2011 postseason, however, then collapsed en route to a 4-12 finish in 2012.

That meant the pressure was on to deliver results in 2013. It looked for all the world like Schwartz would come through as of Week 10, when the Lions completed a season sweep of Chicago to move to 6-3, good for sole possession of first in the NFC North. Everything unraveled afterward, leaving questions about the decision to build around QB Matthew Stafford, among other things.

Along the way, a report surfaced that the Lions’ front office actually wanted to can Schwartz following the ’12 season, only to be rebuffed by ownership on account of Schwartz’s contract. Week 15 and 16 losses to the Ravens and Giants, respectively, made this conclusion an inevitable one.

• Tale of the Tape: 7-9 in 2013; 29-51 overall in five seasons with the Lions; 0-1 in the playoffs.

BLACK MONDAY TRACKER: Updates on latest firings, rumors

• What Went Wrong: How much time do you have?

Injuries to Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler giftwrapped the NFC North and left it sitting on Detroit’s doorstep. The Lions rejected the offer with ferocity, losing three of their last four at home and six of their last seven overall to drop all the way to third place. The offense never really took off as most envisioned it would, with Stafford’s development leveling off — and then dipping. Likewise, the defense failed to ever find consistent footing in Schwartz’s tenure, a disappointing development given Schwartz’s background on that side of the football.

All that said, lingering discipline and effort issues may have been Schwartz’s ultimate undoing. The Lions had myriad off-field troubles under Schwartz’s watch and some high-profile miscues on the field, like Ndamukong Suh’s infamous stomp. Even down to their final few games in 2013, they were plagued by preventable penalties likes offsides and delays of game.

There’s almost no question that Schwartz would have returned in 2014 had the Lions found some way to win two more games and take the division title — their first since 1993. But despite holding fourth-quarter leads in each of their last nine games, the Lions could not get that done. So they’re starting over again.

• Roster Outlook: Money is going to be a huge issue this offseason, as the Lions already have upwards of $124 million on the books for 2014 with the cap projected to settle around $126 million. Even worse, there are not many obvious spots for them to create room. Releasing safety Louis Delmas and WR Nate Burleson would save about $11.5 million, but that’s about it in terms of substantial savings.

The Lions have danced around the cap in recent years by renegotiating contracts with guys like Suh and Stafford. The result: Suh’s cap hit for 2014 is set to top $22 million; Stafford is up over $15 million (and carries a whopping $43 million dead-money hit, in case you’re pondering a trade or something equally far-fetched).

Fortunately for the next coach, the cupboard’s not exactly bare here. The offense starts with Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, plus an offensive line that is much better than most people realize. Defensively, Suh and Nick Fairley will be back to anchor the line, flanked by 2013 first-round pick Ziggy Ansah.

The linebacking corps and secondary remain problem spots, as does the No. 2 receiver position. Losing TE Brandon Pettigrew to free agency would leave Detroit down a key starter there, too.

• Possible replacements: Bill O’Brien, Lovie Smith, Ken Whisenhunt, Jon Gruden.

17 comments
y.woodman.brown
y.woodman.brown

I hear Rick Forzano and Tommy Hudspeth are available...or, if they'd like to hire an ex-jock, word is that Greg Landry and Dexter Bussey are looking.  Of course, what the Lions need--really--is a new front office, a new GM and team owner...it is the Lion's no-cheerleader, cheapskate, amateurish administrative mentality that has always been the cause of their constant and ubiquitous failure.  They run that team like it were a bunch of blue-collars guys pulling shifts on the line--and, of course, that's the mentality that killed the Motor City altogether...woe is the next coach they send-in with his hands tied.

doohan
doohan

Fun fact: No Detroit Lions head coach has ever been hired for another NFL head coaching job!

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Gruden is the best ex-coach that will never coach again. Just ask him.

ChrisSzablewski
ChrisSzablewski

Lions fans, get it out of your head that Gruden is gonna coach the stinky ol lions. News flash: Hes one of the best commentators for the NFL and I'm sure hes living a very comfortable, stress free life with a much more solid future than what a Detroit Lions ball club can offer him.

PWINGS
PWINGS

Gruden would lose his voice bytching at Stafford about his mechanics. (I know. That's a dream come true for some of you.) This team BADLY needs a disciplinarian for their on and off field issues. Lovie is far too easy going IMO. O'Brien might work but it sounds like he's going to Houston. Mike Zimmer for Cincy might be just what this team needs. He takes crap from no one!

TerranceCox
TerranceCox

It will take more than 1 season to bring discipline to this organization . But it will be fun to watch the new coach as he brings new intensity new anger over a lack of discipline. 

Matthew W
Matthew W

If they can find a coach to coax a little more out of Stafford and smack Suh and a few others on D upside the head, they're a very good team.

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

A very good team just waiting for the right coach

tootallgoof
tootallgoof

This is the second best job opening behind Houston.

x72
x72

Good coach could make these guys division winners next season, the talent is there.

PWINGS
PWINGS

@doohan Not so. Detroit Lions head coach George Wilson of the "Paper Lion" - Alex Karras era went on to become the first coach of the newly created Miami Dolphins in the AFL before Don Shula was brought in to be the head coach.

P.S. If you enjoy great football books and have never read "Paper Lion" by George Plimpton, do yourself a favor and read that! It's a lot of fun as are all of Plimpton's sports books.

rjfisher72
rjfisher72

@ChrisSzablewski Personally I wouldn't want Gruden. He's John Madden 2.0 and enjoying himself tooo much in the booth. Outside of taking Dungy's team the final step, he wasn't all that great. Also his end in Tampa was pretty messy.  I'd rather have Ken Whisenhunt or Bill O'Brien. 

rjfisher72
rjfisher72

@TerranceCox I don't think so if they hire the right coach. In today's NFL teams turn it around in one year all the time. Look at the Panthers this season for example.