Sunday, December 29, 2013
Sense of finality hangs over Schwartz, Lions
By Michael Rothstein
Jim Schwartz and the Lions held a fourth-quarter lead in all six of their losses down the stretch.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jim Schwartz lingered for a little longer than normal on the field Sunday, seeking out some Minnesota Vikings to chat with for a second before jogging off toward the tunnel for his final postgame chat of the season.
There was a sense of finality everywhere in Minnesota on Sunday. Final game in the Metrodome. Final game of the season for both teams and, potentially, the final game of the coaching tenures of both Schwartz and Minnesota's Leslie Frazier.
Schwartz addressed his team after another fourth-quarter lead lost, this time in a 14-13 defeat to Minnesota. Players said Schwartz didn't discuss his own job status. He told them he was proud of them and receiver Jeremy Ross said he told them they needed to "bounce back."
The only question now is whether Schwartz will be bouncing back with them or if he will be bounced out of Detroit after five seasons.
True to how he has always been, Schwartz wouldn't divulge what he would say to management if he were allowed to make a case for why he should be given a sixth year. He wouldn't say if he wants clarity on the situation, either, although human nature screams that he would.
"I know the way this business is, we all do, but we can't worry about decisions that we don't make," Schwartz said. "We've got to try our very best week in and week out and if we do, we can accept any decision that is made.
"I'd certainly like to be back. I feel like we have unfinished business here. We've come a long way in these years but we still have ground that we can make and I'm anxious to have a chance to be able to do that."
The "unfinished business" extended to Sunday, where the Lions looked exactly like the team they have been all season long. It is unlikely Sunday was the final opportunity for Schwartz to save his job -- and it actually had no business being that considering what has gone on the past two months -- but if it were, he and the Lions gave management a litany of reasons why a change might be necessary.
Almost all of the same problems that plagued Detroit all season remained in the season finale, when there was nothing left for the Lions to play for after they squandered their chance at a division title.
The same issues with penalties remained -- six for 52 yards. The same issues with game management remained, as the Lions burned through two second-half timeouts in the third quarter, including one on an extra point.
Then came the fourth quarter -- winning time for so many NFL teams, but losing time this season in Detroit. The Lions' final six losses all came after the team led in the fourth quarter as they lost six of their final seven games. They lost their final eight games in 2012.
The only miscue the Lions avoided is committing a turnover.
Each week had the same theme of talking about problems during the week and committing the same ones every Sunday.
"It's frustrating when we talk about what we need to do and know what we need to do but we get to the fourth quarter, which is, in my mind, it's been about the fourth quarter for us," running back Reggie Bush said. "Fourth quarter of the season. Fourth quarter of games. That's where we've been losing football games and that's where we need that one or two or three plays to be made to help us win that game."
"Whether it's special teams, offense, defense, whatever, somebody has to make a play."
They can say they were one play, one game, one whatever away for however long they want, but they were never able to solve that problem.
"We're confident in the way that we work and what we're doing as a team," Schwartz said. "Obviously we didn't win enough games this year and there's no standard to really judge other than that.
"I understand that in this business."
So he should understand that whatever happens over the next 24 or 48 hours is exactly that -- business. And the way the Lions played Sunday, an echo of the past two months, is not a strong case for being able to stay.