- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- One final time, Jim Schwartz got up in front of his team right around noon on Monday and spoke to the players he would no longer coach.
Not this season. Not ever again as the head coach of the Detroit Lions. The players went into the meeting unsure of what was going on, of whether or not Schwartz would remain with Detroit for a sixth season or if this was it after plummeting to 7-9 from 6-3 and falling out of the playoffs.
“Kind of just took the air out of everybody,” defensive tackle C.J. Mosley said. “Of course we heard and it was lingering in the air, but the realization just kind of hit everybody in shock.
“It’s not like we have a bad team. Just, it’s tough. It’s tough for all of us. He’s the reason why a lot of players are here, including me.”
Almost the entirety of the Lions locker room was brought in under Schwartz’s time as coach as the team had less than a handful of leftover players from the 2008 team that went 0-16 under Rod Marinelli.
And the players, even after Schwartz was fired, continued to hold themselves culpable for what happened to the Lions over the second half of the season, saying it was as much their fault as the coaching staff's.
And as Schwartz said his goodbyes, saying he was proud to coach the Lions, he became emotional.
“He got a little choked up, which is fitting,” receiver Nate Burleson said. “He’s emotionally tied to this organization and he has been very passionate about this team and the guys he brought in and the things we’ve accomplished.
“So it was tough to deal with, I’m pretty sure, for him.”
For the players, too. Burleson said the announcement “kind of caught everybody off guard” and that they were anticipating saying goodbye for the season, not potentially forever.
Even as players walked into the Lions practice facility on Monday morning, they said they still didn’t know the fate of their head coach. So when they eventually found out what was happening, the disappointment was obvious.
“It’s tough, we put a lot of hard work into this,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “Players, coaches, everybody. For five years, he’s been here and done a great job.
“From where we were in 2008 to where we are now is a big difference.”
But it wasn’t enough of a difference for Schwartz to continue to coach the Lions. And now, as the Lions search for a new coach, the players are left to wonder how it all unraveled for them to reach this point and where things are going to be headed for the future.
“Oh man. It was, it was a very heartfelt message he gave us,” safety Glover Quin said. “Sad news. Never want to see something like this happen and obviously we didn’t do enough to prevent it.
“So, now we just, I don’t know, wait around and see what happens.”