By: Eric Thomas
So we want Jim Schwartz fired now. That was fast. I have said in blog form that the heat should turn up if they continue to struggle next year, but this is ridiculous. Some are calling for Jim Schwartz to be thrown from the train this year if they lose to Arizona.
Let me get this out of the way: the Arizona game isn’t a yardstick or a determining factor. Sure it would be embarrassing, but it’s meaningless. The draft stinks this year; they aren’t going to be in a position to draft Teo. Improving their draft position makes no sense. If they lose, the loss goes in the pile with all the others. If they win, it’s just a win. The Lions are done this year, they missed the playoffs. It’s all over but the crying.
It’s hard to defend Schwartz, and I’m not going to here. Is he accountable for what has happened this year? Absolutely. Has the team gone backwards this year, and his coordinators have made suspicious decisions? Yes. Did he himself lose the Thanksgiving Day game? You bet. Is he guilty of hubris? Undeniably. But to ride a coach out on a rail because of one bad year is insanity.
Look, all things can be true at the same time. Was the team a mirage last year? Sure, but a wins are wins. I don’t care how close the games were this year or last. That’s the NFL, a league designed to be a game of inches. Why doesn’t Schwartz and his coordinators get any credit for squeezing ten wins out of this bunch last year? I’m not saying he deserves that credit, either. I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Even as I type this, the honest analysis is mitigated. The results are all over the place. How much did Jahvid Best or the threat of Jahvid Best contribute to the 5-0 run at the beginning of last year? Was Eric Wright worthy of that contract he got from the Bucs? Are they just a totally different team with Louis Delmas? Can we count on Nick Fairley? It’s hard to draw any conclusions from these results.
Lions fans seem to staple some magical quality to football coaches. Like somewhere out there is a man with a fist full of glitter that can suddenly make the Lions a better team. Can coaches affect games? Of course, but they have to learn how. It takes time, but Lions fans sound like Veruca Salt. They want it now. But why doesn’t anyone stop and ask themselves the following question: how many times has the coaching carousel actually worked for the Lions?
If anybody, Lions fans should know, that constant coaching changes does not improve the team. There are exceptions, of course. People bring up the 49ers and Harbaugh, but he walked in with a far better defense than what the Lions have. You might bring up Gruden to Tampa Bay, but the Bucs had several playoff runs under Dungy before Chuckie took over.
The best move is to stick with this. Detroit sports fans seem to crave constant chaos. Many people screamed for Jim Leyland’s head DURING THE SEASON and all he did was manage the team into the World Series again. We want constant movement in management in this town even though that movement has never worked. Larry Brown happened once, and it was Larry Brown. And you wanted him gone in the next year.
With both Schwartz and Stafford, I say ride this bear. I was always the first one to stand on my seat, wave my beer, and scream for a pelt. I wanted Rod Marinelli gone a year before it happened, I was done with Mornhinweg in the first year, and I wanted Fontes gone about a decade before it happened (or at least it felt like that). Jim Schwartz, above all else, seems like a bright guy. Few head coaches in the NFL also brandish an economics degree, with honors, from Georgetown. He’s a bright guy so I have confidence that he can learn from his mistakes. If you argue that he should have been able to correct the problems during the season, you are in denial at just how far away the team is from becoming a contender. They spent most of the year checking pulses before getting a guy a jersey and a place in the defensive secondary.
Head coaches in the NFL need to go through the learning process. Schwartz is no different. Bill Belichick was fired in Cleveland. Tom Coughlin got fired in Jacksonville. Mike McCarthy’s offense in San Francisco finished last in the league in 2005. It happens. But with three years of improvement under his belt and one year of decline, isn’t it a little early to talk about flushing Schwartz?