Detroit Lions: Jim Schwartz

W2W4: Detroit Lions

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
12:00
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions (2-1) and Buffalo Bills (1-3) conclude their preseason Thursday night at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

1. Is this it for Kellen Moore: The Lions’ No. 3 quarterback has been one of the most talked-about players during the preseason – at least from a fan perspective. After the first preseason game, he briefly looked like he might push Dan Orlovsky for the No. 2 spot, but now his place on Detroit’s roster in 2014 solely lies on whether or not Martin Mayhew and Jim Caldwell choose to keep three quarterbacks instead of two. If the Lions go with three, Moore makes the team. If the Lions go with two, he doesn’t (barring injury). Moore could end up on Detroit’s practice squad if he is released and clears waivers, but there is a chance this could be Moore’s final game for Detroit.

2. Can any receivers stand out: This would seem like one competition where all of the principles will receive ample playing time since it is unlikely Calvin Johnson or Golden Tate see more than one series, if anything. So this is a final impression for Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree, Ryan Broyles and Corey Fuller to make their cases for a roster spot. It’s also a chance for Patrick Edwards and Andrew Peacock to put tape together or impress enough for a practice squad spot. But the main focus will be on the four receivers fighting for two or three spots since Johnson, Tate and Jeremy Ross are going to occupy three of them.

3. Hello again, Jim Schwartz: It probably won’t be as big of a deal as it will be when the former Lions coach returns to Detroit with the Bills during the regular season, but a lot of the current group of Detroit players were drafted by the Buffalo defensive coordinator. In a game where almost all of the subplots surround roster spots, potentially the starting right tackle spot and keeping players injury free, seeing a former head coach on the opposite sideline could be intriguing. More intriguing goes to the first point up top – if any coach knows Moore, it is Schwartz, who kept him on the Detroit roster the past two seasons as the team’s No. 3 quarterback behind Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill, both NFL starters.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Since the start of the offseason and really, continuously for the last decade, the Detroit Lions have been searching for a way to solidify their secondary.

They’ve tried mid-round draft picks coupled with free agent signings, with some minimal success, for the most part.

It worked for Detroit last season, when the Lions signed Rashean Mathis in the middle of training camp. The veteran made the roster and ended up as one of the team’s starters, along with Chris Houston, for the majority of the season.

Florence
Now general manager Martin Mayhew is at it again, hoping he can pull off the same veteran trick for the second straight season. The Lions signed veteran corner Drayton Florence on Thursday. The 33-year-old played one season in Carolina and was an occasional starter.

This is Florence’s second stint with the Lions -- he played eight games during the 2012 season under former coach Jim Schwartz.

This time, this is a signal that the Lions at least have some concern about the depth on the back end of their cornerback chart. Starters Darius Slay and Mathis are locks to make the roster. So, too, is rookie fourth-rounder Nevin Lawson, who is likely a backup cornerback and nickelback this season. Bill Bentley, last season’s starting nickelback, also will likely make the team.

Depending on whether or not the Lions keep five or six cornerbacks, Florence is likely competing with Cassius Vaughn, Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood for one or two roster spots. Vaughn and Green have had good moments during training camp; Greenwood has struggled throughout most of it.

If Florence shows he can still play at age 33 – somewhat ancient by standards of cornerbacks – he could end up stealing a spot from one of those guys. Florence also joins Mathis, 33, as the oldest members of the secondary and the defense and second-oldest on the Lions roster in general, behind veteran center Dominic Raiola, who is 35.

Typically, cornerbacks don’t stick this late in their careers, but considering Florence’s experience and skill, he’ll have a shot to make an impact if he shows he can still play. Florence has not been a full-time starter, though, since the 2011 season, when he started all 16 games for Buffalo, making 50 tackles and intercepting three passes.

It will be interesting to see how Detroit uses Florence.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- There were times last season where Mikel Leshoure knew he was not going to receive a chance. He had been banished to the bench even though his coaches said publicly there was a role for him somewhere on the Detroit Lions.

Leshoure
That role, it seemed, was an inactive one.

The Lions cratered to a 7-9 finish after starting the season strong, resulting in the firing of head coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. In their place, the team hired Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.

And one of the bigger beneficiaries of the move might be Leshoure, the former second-round pick out of Illinois.

“The new coaches just coming in here and they, knowing us, they got their own background of us and they give everybody a fresh chance, a fresh start and I feel like that’s what I needed,” Leshoure said. “I feel like it’s fair game now and I can go out there and compete.”

Leshoure still has a tough road to real playing time as the Lions have a lot invested in starting running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, but Lombardi’s New Orleans Saints-based offense could provide Leshoure with at least a fraction of the chances he received in 2012, when he had 215 carries for 798 yards and 34 receptions for 214 yards.

Then last season, he had two carries all season.

“I don’t really get into what happened last year,” Leshoure said. “I felt a lot of it was out of my hands. It wasn’t anything I did as far as my part as far as discipline or anything like that.

“It’s just a coach’s decision and he’s gone, so I’ll just leave it at that.”

By leaving it there, he’s hoping he can pick up where he finished in 2012 instead of languishing where he was in 2013.
Good morning and ROOOOOAAAARRRR!!!!!

INDIANAPOLIS -- When Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone went hunting for a new defensive coordinator last month, he had one easy thought in his head: Who did he hate facing during an NFL season?

He remembered going against Jim Schwartz when Schwartz coordinated the Tennessee Titans defense. He remembered he had a difficult time, knew Schwartz was recently available after being fired by the Detroit Lions and chose to bring him aboard as the Bills' new defensive coordinator, replacing Mike Pettine.

"I was familiar with Jim when he was with the Titans. We had played against him, had a difficult time, came on the short side of that game," Marrone said Thursday. "But also in my experience, having been down there with Mike Munchak and the late Mike Heimerdinger, I'd gotten to know Jim through them.

"I knew how he worked, knew how he prepared. I knew he was difficult schematically to go against, and I knew he was a good fit and a great move by our organization."

Schwartz and Buffalo will face the Lions both in the preseason and regular season, both at Ford Field. There is even a chance Schwartz's regular season return could be the Lions' annual Thanksgiving Day game.

And now, here's a look around the Interwebs at Lions news:
 

 

 
Former Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz did the radio rounds in his former haunt of Nashville today on 104.5 FM and was asked a lot about his five years with the team and many of the players he coached.

Schwartz
He defended Matthew Stafford in the morning. Then he defended Ndamukong Suh in the afternoon.

Here are other highlights from his two appearances on 104.5, where you can listen to the morning interview in its entirety. The afternoon interview highlights are below.
  • Schwartz said he felt some of his Lions teams were paying for the ineptitude of Lions teams in the past -- I'm using the word ineptitude, not him -- but he clearly felt that was not fair to the players and coaches he worked with. "I was in Detroit for a while and it seemed like we were always paying for the sins of previous teams," Schwartz said. "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."
  • Like every coach ever, Schwartz thought the Lions were close to being bigger winners last season and he likes a lot of what Detroit had this season. As he mentioned during the morning show, depth was an issue, but the Lions had a good group of players beyond the marquee stars of Stafford, Suh and Calvin Johnson. In all of his star talk, he did not mention Reggie Bush, but I wouldn't read too much into that. "I think there are still some good pieces in place, obviously with Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford and Ndamukong Suh," Schwartz said. "You have three marquee players but it's not just them. There are some other good players. I thought our offensive line was good and we were right in it right till the end of the year. All our games were close last year. I think that's one of the things that I think was so frustrating for our fans and for people around the NFL is that every game was so close."


One thing Schwartz did admit is the team, at times, had discipline issues on the field -- perhaps the most in 2011, the same year the team went to the playoffs. He called it a "legitimate concern" but also felt the team was much better, discipline-wise, during his final two seasons with the Lions.

"A couple years ago, particularly in 2011, in safe to say our playoff year, I think that criticism was fair. We had too many penalties after the whistle and things like that," Schwartz said. "We worked really hard the last couple years to clean that stuff up. 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, I think that was a legitimate concern but it was part of the growing-up process for our team and learning how some of those things affected and things like that.

"I think if you look particularly the last couple years, including last year, you didn't see the same things come up that came up in the past. They were addressed and our team learned from them and they learned and they held them back. We were just a play away from winning a lot of games and I don't know if you'd consider a dropped pass or missed tackle or something like that, I see those as physical errors. I don't see those as discipline errors."
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.

Stafford
Stafford
“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.
The Detroit Lions weren’t necessarily big trash talkers before -- at least not publicly. It seems highly unlikely they would become more of a trash talking team now.

With the Lions switching coaches from Jim Schwartz to Jim Caldwell and general manager Martin Mayhew saying often they wanted to shift and change the culture of the Lions a little bit, some of that had to do with the on-field play.

So they went out and hired a man who is almost universally respected in the coaching profession and considered by most to be a very decent man. That doesn’t lead to the type of coach who would accept players running their mouths all that often.

If anything, one of the few times last season the Lions had an issue with someone from their organization talking trash, it didn’t come from a player or from a coach, but from vice chairman Bill Ford Jr., who took shots at the Chicago Bears, calling them the “same bunch of thugs” they had played on "Monday Night Football" in 2011.

While Detroit has a reputation of less-than-clean play defensively around the league, and that starts with tackle Ndamukong Suh, rarely does he actually talk trash through the media. If anything, he goes out of his way to avoid it, although he will sometimes will have interesting word choices, like when he said he would “digest whoever I have in front of me” when he was asked about Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long.

For the most part, though, Detroit stayed away from too much public trash talking -- something that will likely stay the same under Caldwell.
The Detroit Lions are going through a coaching transition now, so none of them really expected to be playing for a different coach when the survey was taken during the season -- and certainly none of them thought they would be playing for Jim Caldwell.

None of the Lions mentioned Caldwell as the coach they’d most like to play for, at least in part because he wasn’t a head coach at the time so he wasn’t included at all as part of the survey.

But this is who Detroit will have as its head coach now, a much different man than the prior Lions coach, Jim Schwartz, and a different guy than the man who won the survey of over 300 NFL players, Seattle’s Pete Carroll.

From his days at USC, Carroll is a guy who most people who enjoy fun would seem to want to play for. He’s demanding, but keeps things light. He likes to prank his players on occasion. He’s been known to motivate in different ways.

He is, in many ways, the antithesis of what many NFL coaches appear to be. He lets his personality show through and it is an engaging one, to be certain.

Lions players were all over in terms of coaches they wanted to play for, but that shouldn’t be surprising. A lot of times, the personality of a coach has to mesh with the personalities in the locker room. And winning helps, too. So depending what you value in a coach, that would be why players selected who they did.
Good morning and ROOOOAAARRRR!!!!

It has been a good few days for former Detroit Lions coaches.

On Friday, the Buffalo Bills hired Jim Schwartz as the team's defensive coordinator and officially introduced him Monday. During his introductory press conference, he said he plans on bringing an attack defense to Buffalo.

He also had some interesting things to say about the Lions, the team that fired him after five seasons in December.

"In our business that is not unusual. I think if you look around, just about every coach has been in that position. Every coach has had some situation. There are some great ones that have been fired," Schwartz told reporters Monday. "It is part of this business and it is the way it goes. We do this because we love to do it.

"I graduated from Georgetown -- I think I was the first guy in the history of Georgetown to ever go into coaching. I did not do it because the money was here even though I have made a lot of money in my career and things like that. I did not do it to be on national TV. I did it because football is what I love the most. I played Division III football. It was non-scholarship. That is the attitude I have taken through my whole career. I work an awful lot, but I wouldn’t say I have a great work ethic. I just like what I do.

"When you combine your hobby and your profession, I think you’re in a great position. There was never a question of getting back on the horse, so to speak. It was just making sure that the opportunity was the right one. I am very confident that this is it."

It'll also give Schwartz an opportunity to face Detroit twice next season in Detroit -- once in the preseason and once during the regular season, perhaps on Thanksgiving.

The other big former Lions hire came Monday night, when Dallas hired former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan as the Cowboys' "passing game coordinator."

How this could work in Dallas will be interesting, as Bill Callahan -- last season's offensive coordinator in Dallas -- is still on staff. So an interesting situation for Linehan to walk into.

The good news for Dallas is Linehan ran a productive passing offense with the Lions and he is familiar working with a dynamic quarterback-receiver combination. In Detroit, he had Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Now he'll have Tony Romo and Dez Bryant.

The Lions' passing offense was in the top five in the league the past three seasons with Stafford running the team.

Both Linehan and Schwartz were fired on the day after the season.

And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
Jim Schwartz just added some intrigue to one of the Detroit Lions home games next season. The former Lions coach became the Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Friday night, giving the 47-year-old a new job and a chance to run a defense again.

He’ll likely be a good one, too. Detroit’s defense played well last season and during his time in Tennessee, he was one of the better coordinators in the NFL. Even as his team struggled in Detroit, Schwartz never turned into a bad coach.

He did improve the Lions from the time he took over and he helped construct one of the top rushing defenses in the NFL last season. Schwartz seems to be a good match in Buffalo as well.

The Bills had a strong pass defense last season -- fourth in yards allowed per game, second in interception percentage and third in sacks -- but struggled some against the run. Considering how Detroit did against the run this season, he could turn them around quickly.

He’ll inherit a defense that should be mostly intact as well and much like with the Lions, will have a strong front four featuring Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus.

It’ll be a defense the Lions will actually see twice in Detroit. They’ll play in the preseason and again during the regular season at Ford Field. And don’t think for a second the Lions fans will forget Schwartz’s outburst toward them in the final home game. So it’ll be interesting to see what that reaction is when the teams play in the fall.

And it'll also be interesting to see how he approaches defending Matthew Stafford. No defensive coach in the league likely knows Stafford better than Schwartz, so that could be a fascinating matchup.
Over the past two weeks, we looked at critical plays in the 2013 Detroit Lions season, counting back from 10 all the way to today.

Not all of them were bad and certainly, with the way the Lions cratered to a 7-9 finish, were not all good. Some may be have just been fantastic plays.

As always when it comes to these sorts of lists, this is subjective and are plays, for good or bad, that stuck out to me when I made this list. Agree or disagree vehemently, let’s chat about it.

Past plays: No. 10 -- PI in Arizona; No. 9 -- Reggie Bush’s screen vs. Minnesota; No. 8 -- Calvin Johnson gets the drops; No. 7 -- Jeremy Ross’ snow-covered return; No. 6 -- Matthew Stafford’s pick-six; No. 5 -- Mike Nugent’s game-winning field goal; No. 4 -- The kneel to end regulation in Giants-Lions; No. 3 -- Stafford’s fake spike; No. 2 -- Justin Tucker’s field goal

[+] EnlargeJim Schwartz
AP Photo/Don WrightCoach Jim Schwartz made a gutsy call on Nov. 17 at Pittsburgh that changed the Lions' season.
Today, we present what I believe to be the play that most shaped this Lions season.

When: Nov. 17, 2013

Where: Heinz Field, where the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Detroit Lions, 37-27.

What happened: It was, at best, a questionable call and a gutsy call. It was also a bizarre call and, considering both how it turned out combined with the logic behind it, a silly decision. The Lions led, 27-23, with 12:56 left in the fourth quarter on the Pittsburgh 10-yard line. Fourth down. Five yards to go. Logic says kick the field goal and take the 30-23 lead.

Not for Jim Schwartz. Schwartz instead chose to fake the field goal, sending punter Sam Martin -- who had never attempted a fake in his life -- running over to the right side. He was hit short of the first down and fumbled. Pittsburgh then drove 97 yards and scored what would be the game-winning touchdown.

But, as Schwartz said, "don't say I'm scared." That call clearly showed that.

What they said about it: Schwartz: “It had to do with trying to make the plays to win the game. We didn’t make it. But look, you could say whatever you want,” Schwartz said. “Y’all say whatever you want about me, OK. Don’t say I’m scared. Cause we ain’t, OK? This team is going to be aggressive. We’re going to play our very best. We didn’t play well enough to win this game, OK. But it’s not because we’re passive or anything.”

Martin: “I got hit by a 350-pound man. I don't think I had the first down, but regardless, that guy made a great play. You have to give him credit. When you looked at initially, it was a big hole.”

Center Dominic Raiola: “I don’t know how much momentum we’re going to lose from this. Going back home with Tampa coming into town, everything’s right in front of us. You know, we’re not, we don’t need a State of the Union. It’s just a loss. We lost, you know. They got us. Just bounce back like we do after every loss."

Kicker David Akers: "It comes down to a mentality. 'Are you going to play it safe or are you going to be aggressive and go after it?'"

How the Lions’ season was impacted: Usually, I’m not a believer in one play or one decision completely derailing a season, but walking down to the media scrum after the loss, I distinctly remember turning to another reporter and openly wondering if that decision shifted the karma of the entire Lions' season. Yes, Detroit's players praised the aggressiveness of Schwartz with the call, but it just simply wasn’t logical. In every game Detroit lost after the Pittsburgh game, the Lions lost a fourth-quarter lead. Turnovers started to pile up by the bunches. Detroit still might have lost the game had Schwartz kicked the field goal. The Lions’ season still might have collapsed. But there was a crack in the stability there. It was a meltdown where the offense, defense and special teams did nothing from the moment the fake was called. Whether the players, coaches or anyone else realized it that afternoon, the fake field goal changed the mood of the season.
One of the biggest complaints about the Detroit Lions during the Jim Schwartz era was how often the team gave up yards for free.

During Schwartz’s five seasons with the team, Detroit was penalized 565 times, third-most in the NFL during that span, only topped by Seattle and Oakland. Now, under new coach Jim Caldwell, his goal is to change that dramatically.

“Winning football games takes a team that is not penalized very often,” Caldwell said on "Mike & Mike" on Friday morning. “You have to be in the top five in fewest penalties.

“It’s kind of going to be our goal.”

Under Schwartz, Detroit had the second most defensive penalties in the five-year stretch with 248 and the third-most penalty yards allowed (4,730).

Schwartz did a decent job corralling penalties in his fourth and fifth seasons, but the Lions were still over 100 penalties in his final four seasons with the club -- including 107 penalties in 2013.

The Lions had the second-fewest penalty yards in Schwartz’s five seasons in 2013 with 925 yards and the fewest offensive penalties, 38, in the five-year Schwartz tenure.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis had the second-fewest penalties in the NFL in 2009 (73), fourth-fewest in 2010 (77) and tied for fewest in 2011 (76). In Caldwell’s three years with the Colts, they had the fewest penalties in the league (226), second-fewest offensive penalties (109), third-fewest defensive penalties (71) and fewest overall penalty yards (1,804).

Some numbers in this story were culled from ESPN Stats & Information
Over the next two weeks, we will look at 10 critical plays that shaped the Detroit Lions season in one way or another.

Not all of them will be bad and certainly, with the way the Lions cratered to a 7-9 finish, they will not all be good. And some may be have just been fantastic plays.

As always when it comes to these sorts of lists, this is subjective and are plays, for good or bad, that stuck out to me when I made this list. Agree or disagree vehemently, let's chat about it. Oh, and we'll be going in reverse order from 10 to 1.

Past plays: No. 10 -- PI in Arizona; No. 9 -- Reggie Bush's screen vs. Minnesota; No. 8 -- Calvin Johnson gets the drops; No. 7 -- Jeremy Ross' snow-covered return; No. 6 -- Matthew Stafford's pick-six; No. 5 -- Mike Nugent's game-winning field goal; No. 4 -- The kneel to end regulation in Giants-Lions; No. 3 -- Stafford's fake spike

Today, we present Play No. 2

When: Dec. 16, 2013

[+] EnlargeJustin Tucker
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesThe Ravens' Justin Tucker effectively sunk the Lions' season with his 61-yard field goal on Monday Night Football.
Where: Ford Field, where the Lions lost to Baltimore, 18-16, on Monday Night Football.

What happened: It wobbled and hung in the air for what felt like a minute even though it was a few seconds in reality. But Justin Tucker's 61-yard field goal gave Baltimore a win on Monday Night Football in a game in which the Lions' offense was impotent for the most part and the defense held Jim Caldwell, now theirnew coach, without a touchdown. The Ravens didn't need it, though, as they made six field goals and won the game.

What they said about it: Matthew Stafford: "Off the foot, I thought it was going to be short just because it had so much height. Obviously, they have a lot of confidence in their kicker. He's done a great job for them all year."

Safety Glover Quin: "[Tucker] made a great kick. He was their whole, I mean, he hit what, six field goals tonight?"

Former head coach Jim Schwartz: "The only assurance we need is we have two games to play and we're one down in our division. That's the only thing we need to worry about. That's the only thing that we need to concern ourselves with right now. We need to find a way to come back with a win against the Giants, go on the road and beat the Vikings and let the dust settle and see where that takes us."

Tucker: "I'm glad to come through of course for my reality team but also for all my fantasy owners."

How the Lions' season was impacted: For the first time in two months, Detroit no longer controlled its playoff fate -- something the Lions had heading into the game. It was another in a string of fourth-quarter collapses for Detroit, although this one had all the implications of sending a season in trouble into disarray. By losing this game, the Lions had to win out in order to make the playoffs. Instead, they lost out and Jim Schwartz was fired, opening the position for Caldwell to take this week. Of all the plays that happened this season for Detroit, this one appeared to be the most crushing for its players because of the implications involved and how well the Lions' defense had played for most of the game.
Over the next two weeks, we will look at 10 critical plays that shaped the Detroit Lions' season in one way or another.

Not all of them will be bad and certainly, with the way the Lions cratered to a 7-9 finish, will not all be good. And some may be have just been fantastic plays.

And as always when it comes to these sorts of lists, this is subjective and are plays, for good or bad, that stuck out to me when I made this list. Agree or disagree vehemently, let’s chat about it. Oh, and we’ll be going in reverse order from 10 to 1.

Past plays: No. 10 -- PI in Arizona; No. 9 -- Reggie Bush’s screen vs. Minnesota; No. 8 -- Calvin Johnson gets the drops; No. 7 -- Jeremy Ross’ snow-covered return; No. 6 -- Matthew Stafford’s pick-six; No. 5 -- Mike Nugent’s game-winning field goal.

Today, we present Play No. 4

When: Dec. 22, 2013

Where: Ford Field, where the Lions lost their home finale, 23-20 in overtime, to the New York Giants, eliminating them from playoff contention.

What happened: Detroit got the ball back on its own 25-yard line with 23 seconds left, needing a score to win and keep its playoff hopes alive. Instead, the Lions handed the ball off to Theo Riddick and then, in the play we are highlighting, Jim Schwartz and the Lions chose to take a knee and play for overtime instead of trying to get into field-goal range despite having two timeouts left. What happened next made this play memorable on many levels. The fans booed and instead of preparing his team, Schwartz responded, yelling back at the frustrated fans.

What they said about it: Schwartz after the game: “I was disappointed to hear boos. We're getting ready to go to overtime right there and our crowd is great for us and they support us," Schwartz said. "The team needed a lift right there. We didn't need to feel bad at that point. We just intercepted a ball that got us to overtime. I thought that I was just trying to get our team ready. That's tough, the situations when your players are getting booed and you want them fired up. That's what I was trying to do right there."

Schwartz the next day: “Well, I probably should have done just like I did at the end of the second quarter and just kept it in my mind," Schwartz said. "Just kept it in my mind, like why is somebody booing when it is four seconds left in the half? Don't they know what the situation is and the risk/reward of doing something other than what we did right there?

"So that would probably be, if you were going to label it a regret, yeah, just don't verbalize it. Just keep it back in there."

How the Lions’ season was impacted: If there was anything that completely sealed Schwartz’ fate with the Lions beyond what happened with play calls and interceptions and touchdowns, it was how he reacted to the Detroit fans booing his decision to kneel. He lost his composure, lost his cool and it was emblematic of how the Lions often played in the fourth quarters of games during the second half of the season. Schwartz’ attitude toward the fans may not have impacted the players, but his initial denial of yelling at the fans to his flip the next day of admitting it wasn’t the best idea after a lot of prodding told you a lot about his tenure.
FontesDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesWayne Fontes stood out for guiding the Lions to the playoffs in 1991, '93, '94 and '95.
In the middle of this season, when the Detroit Lions were still looking like a team trending toward the playoffs instead of a coaching search, Dominic Raiola explained simply why this team would be different.

Why this team wouldn't collapse.

Raiola looked at the team Detroit had assembled and saw few familiar faces from the 0-16 team he was a part of during the 2008 season. The 13-year veteran, who has spent his entire career in Detroit, saw few remnants from the teams of Lions past, the ones that would consistently fall apart.

Yet that's exactly what happened again.

"We will bounce back," Raiola said after Detroit lost to Cincinnati on Oct. 20. "I know we will bounce back. We have a bunch of fighters in here. Look who is in this room, look at our quarterback. We have the best wide receiver in the world. We have a bunch of fighters in here."

The Lions were 4-3 then. They would win their next two games, and then win one game the rest of the season. This led to the firing of Jim Schwartz after five seasons, and yet another coaching search for the franchise.

This is the main issue for the Lions and their next coach. Team president Tom Lewand said he he believed the Lions' job was "one of the most, if not the single most, attractive head coaching opportunity" in the league during this cycle.

It might be.

But there is something else the next Detroit coach needs to understand. He will inherit a roster with perhaps more talent than any Lions team since Wayne Fontes was the coach. But Detroit is a franchise mired in losing with a culture of collapse, especially in the second halves of seasons.

The challenge facing the next coach is to change that culture.

Through the past 20 years, Detroit has had eight coaches, if you count interim coaches. The Lions have had three general managers and have changed team presidents. The only consistency has been the ownership of the Ford family, which has shown patience for coaches and general managers -- notably Matt Millen -- with minimal success.

Another constant has been a history of collapses. Collapses both similar to and worse than this year's failure, where a 6-3 start turned into a 7-9 finish and the firing of Schwartz. That after a year where a 4-4 start was followed by eight straight losses.

The majority of Schwartz's tenure was comprised of teams that didn't come close to winning records or ones that unraveled at the end of seasons.

Even during Detroit's lone playoff season this century, the Lions started 6-2 in 2011, went 4-4 down the stretch and were fortunate only one other division, the NFC South, had a team besides the division winner that was over .500 for the year.

Rod Marinelli's tenure saw one collapse in his three seasons in 2007, when the Lions started off 6-3 and crumbled to a 1-6 finish and a 7-9 record. Marinelli also authored the only winless season in modern NFL history in 2008.

Steve Mariucci's teams unraveled twice in three seasons. In 2004, Detroit started the season 4-2. It went 2-8 down the stretch to finish 6-10. The next season, the Lions started 3-3 and then plummeted to a 2-8 finish that saw Mariucci get fired midway through. Dick Jauron took over in the interim and guided the team to a 1-4 record over those final five games.

The closest Marty Mornhinweg came to a collapse was turning a 3-5 start into a 3-13 final record, but he had no success in his other seasons.

Bobby Ross only had one full collapse in his tenure from 1997 to 2000, when he retired midseason. In 1999, the Lions started 6-2 and finished 8-8. The next season, the Lions started 5-2 and went 4-5 down the stretch. But Gary Moeller replaced Ross for the final seven games, going 4-3.

The only coach with sustained success over the past 20 years was Fontes, also the last Lions coach to make the playoffs more than once. He had only one true collapse with the franchise in his tenure, the 1996 season, when Detroit started 4-2 and finished 5-11.

Fontes actually broke the mold. He once took a team that started 0-3 and led it to a 10-6 record and the playoffs in 1995. His 1994 team started 2-4 and made the playoffs at 9-7. Before that, although it doesn't fit the 20-year window, he had success and even won division titles and a playoff game.

Only three coaches in the Super Bowl era have made the playoffs with the Lions more than once -- Fontes, Ross and Monte Clark.

And in the Super Bowl era, the Lions have only won one playoff game.

Since 2000, in a league that is almost designed to be cyclical, the Lions have managed to not win a divisional title and have only one playoff appearance. Only Cleveland, with one appearance, and Buffalo, with none, are on par or worse than the Lions.

So this is what the new coach, whomever Detroit hires, will be inheriting. And this is the "culture," to use general manager Martin Mayhew's word, and level of deep history he will have to try and change.

He just needs to understand that walking in the door.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider