By: Eric Thomas
“A couple years ago, particularly in 2011…[W]e had too many penalties after the whistle and things like that.” That’s former Lions coach Jim Schwartz, who for some reason did a bunch of radio shows on Nashville’s 104.5 earlier this week. What’s the matter Jim? Can’t do radio in Detroit anymore, Jim? Did something happen?
We’ve been locked inside a frozen hellscape for the past few—or maybe several—weeks so it’s hard to even imagine that Jim Schwartz was only fired from his job as Lions head coach just over a month ago. It seems like so much longer. Schwartz waxed nostalgic about his time in the D with some radio guys in Nashville about his tenure with the Lions, apparently willing to admit things we in Detroit never heard him say when he was here. As it turns out, he wasn’t actually a fan of penalties! Now we know.
Schwartz admitted to his Nashville audience that the Lions developed a bad reputation with NFL referees. This is different to hear because after the game against the Steelers—which, in hindsight, feels like his penultimate game with Detroit—Schwartz was asked specifically if he thought the Lions had become targets for flags from NFL officials. At the time, he said, “No. That’s just the way the game is now. People need headlines and stuff like that. We just play football. We don’t worry about what other people write about it or what other people say about it. It certainly wouldn’t affect the referees.”
When hanging with his best radio buds in Nashville, Schwartz had a new answer. “We worked really hard the last couple years to clean that stuff up,” he admitted. “But once it’s on your resume, so to speak, you have a hard time getting it off. I think that’s the way it goes with this league. You pay for the sins of past teams and in 2011.”
Well, at least he’s being honest about it now.
He also admitted his annoyance that he, along with the other players and coaches, were being held accountable for the Lions losing legacy. ”I was in Detroit for a while and it seemed like we were always paying for the sins of previous teams,” he said, but he stopped short of mentioning the oft-referred to Dungy-encouraged “Same Old Lions” sobriquet that took on bullet train speed in his final year with the team. “There was a road losing streak or division losing streak and we were holding teams and guys accountable for stuff that happened 10 years before. That’s not always fair in this league. It’s part of the conversation of this league but it’s not always fair to the current players, the current coaches.”
He’s right, and he was within his rights to be annoyed by the banner hung around his neck. Schwartz, Stafford, Suh and others don’t deserve to be blamed for what happened before they came here.
Schwartz also defended Ndamukong Suh, in this apparently very long series of Nashville radio interviews. Has his agent told he him he works in Buffalo now? I digress; Schwartz flatly denied accusations levied by Fox Analyst Heath Evans, who said Suh was a dominating presence in the Lions locker room, to the point where he was attempting to usurp the coaches. “There were a lot of things that were completely untrue that were said,” said Schwartz. “Somebody said that Ndamukong was constantly late and was doing it to show up the coaching staff and all these different things.”
He also addressed the accusation that Suh was often late for practice, “And I can say categorically, in four years as a player there, he was late zero times in four years, and I know that for a fact. I was there every single day. Ndamukong was one of our first guys in the building every single day, and he matured as a player also.”
Finally, he doesn’t blame Matthew Stafford for the Lions collapse from 6-2 to 7-9. “Yeah, you know, we were 2-6 over the last half of last season, and when you’re 2-6 nobody is feeling good about their performance, whether you’re the head coach, the quarterback or a defensive lineman,” said Schwartz. “But it’s a team game and I wouldn’t pin it on Matt Stafford.”
I’m sure he means other than Staffords’ eleven picks in the last six games. I’m kidding; it really wasn’t all on him. The Lions had an epic lack of depth at WR.
He continued, “Matt’s an outstanding quarterback. He led us to the playoffs. Just about every record in the Lions offense, total offense and passing offense was set by Matt Stafford in the last three years. He’s going to lead that team to many great things in the future. Everybody has some rough spots here and there, and it’s up to the rest of the team to pick you up.”
So that should clear it up. Stafford and Suh are actually awesome. At least it’s settled now.