By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Since Jim Schwartz took over as head coach of the Detroit Lions in 2009, the Lions are 29-49 in regular seasons. Even with a talented team this season, Detroit is a measly 7-7 in an injured-ravaged NFC North that the Lions could have locked up weeks ago had they not lost four of their last five games.
Not surprisingly, many believe Schwartz’s job is in jeopardy. The players on his team, at least publicly, seem to be the exceptions. In the locker room Wednesday, the players said the responsibility ultimately lies with them.
“It’s on the players,” cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “The plays are called, but we as players have to execute. There’s nothing that Jim has done to make us lose any ball game – nothing. So to put that on his back, we as players take that burden off his back and shoulder it ourselves.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to the players to be able to execute,” Mathis continued. “If we can’t execute, then that falls on us. It don’t fall on any coach. I know people are judging, and that’s critics, and that’s what fans do and that’s what you guys do, but at the end of the day, we have to take [the] onus.”
Running back Reggie Bush mentioned a lack of discipline as the cause of the Lions’ recent habits of turning the ball over and blowing fourth-quarter leads, and Bush too blamed the players, not the coaches.
“It’s not a coaches thing,” Bush said. “It’s a players’ thing. We can do a better job all across the board. As far as an offense standpoint, turn the ball over, and that’s the discipline issue, and that’s something that we have to correct because obviously, as you see, it’ll lose you games.”
Wide receiver Nate Burleson also said the mistakes and ultimately the losses have to be attributed to the players, not the coaches. He also implied, though, that blaming someone else for the team’s failures is not acceptable, which makes it seem like even if Schwartz and coaches do contribute to losing, it would be wrong of players to say so.
“You can’t look further than the guys wearing the jerseys,” Burleson said. “The coward’s way out is trying to point the figure in other directions, so if anybody wants to give criticism, give it to the players, not the coaches. They don’t suit up. They make the calls. They put us in a position to be successful. We’ve got to capitalize and make those plays happen.”
At least in a sense, the players have a solid argument. After all, Schwartz did not throw three interceptions against the Baltimore Ravens, one to seal the loss on a final possession. Schwartz did not allow the Baltimore offense to convert on 3rd and 10 and get close enough for a game-winning 61-yard field goal by the Ravens.
None of that, however, will likely be enough to allow Schwartz to remain in Detroit if the Lions lose again and wind up missing the playoffs with a sufficiently talented roster. Now it seems players are playing for Schwartz’s job as well as for their own and for the Lions’ rapidly fading playoff hopes.
“I think that’s a part of it,” Suh said. “Owners expect winning, but most importantly you’ve got to play for winning, play for, have a hunger to want to be a winner. That’s what I play for. Obviously I don’t want that coach to go anywhere. I love his scheme, I love the way things go, but I don’t think that has to do with anything right now.”