- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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Former Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz popped on the radio in his old town of Nashville on Tuesday morning, and besides declaring his love for Vanderbilt basketball, he also once again defended his former quarterback, Matthew Stafford.
When asked if Stafford had regressed during Schwartz’s final season with the Lions, he pointed to the team’s collapse in the second half of the season, but didn’t put all of that on his then-quarterback.
“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,” Schwartz said on 104.5 FM in Nashville. “But it’s a team game and I wouldn’t pin it on one Matt Stafford. 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.”
Schwartz drafted Stafford months after he was hired as the Lions' head coach in 2009, and worked with him the first five years of his career. When Schwartz looked at his downfall in Detroit, especially this season, one of the things that stood out to him was the lack of depth the Lions had on the roster.
“I think it’s a difficult situation there with depth on the team. They are top-heavy on their cap and rightfully so, guys like Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford and Ndamukong Suh,” Schwartz said. “Makes it difficult to have a lot of depth, and when you get those injuries, which everybody does, it’s going to be a difficult road to hoe when you get to the second half of the season.
“We didn’t do a good enough job in the second half of the season.”
The Lions are running into some of those depth issues now as they head toward free agency and May’s draft at least $6 million over the proposed 2014 salary cap one month before the new league year starts.