- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Jim Schwartz apparently has a very specific description of failure. A season in which the Lions had control of their own fate heading into Week 14 only to be eliminated from the playoffs by the end of Week 16, in his mind, was not deemed a failure.
Neither was a team that completely unraveled in the second half of the season, losing five of six games after starting the season 6-3 -- losing fourth-quarter leads in all five of those losses -- and having three or more turnovers in the past six games.
Nope, that’s not a failure, either. At least in the public eyes of Schwartz, the Lions' head coach 15 games into his fifth, and probably final, season.
"When I hear the word failure, I think, I hear like abject failure," Schwartz said. "Like nothing goes right. That’s the connotation I get from it.
"Maybe you feel a little bit different. I don’t feel that about our team. I’m still proud of our team. Our team comes to battle, and they play through the game. We just come up a play short, and if somebody wants to term that being a failure, then that’s certainly their right to. I’m still a [glass] half-full guy."
Except that these Lions, in many ways, were a failure when it came to the second half of the season. They didn't accomplish their goal, which was participating the playoffs and moving past the label of being an underachieving, underperforming, playoff-watching team.
The team struggles washed away good personal seasons from veterans like Dominic Raiola, and entire position groups, like the offensive line.
But, as a team, in the end, these Lions never got over their issues, never moved past the struggles that plagued them throughout the season. Turnovers remained a constant issue. They were still among the most penalized teams in the NFL. They could never solve the plague of continual dropped passes.
There was just never improvement throughout the season, only regression at certain spots, notably the quarterback. They were always one play away, one drive away, one something away from making the next step as a team and a franchise.
"That has been the trend, the description of our team," Schwartz said. "I am not taking pride in that. I am just saying that we have been close in games, but we haven’t come up with wins."
And that, at the end of all of this, is the real issue with the Jim Schwartz era in Detroit: close, but not enough wins the past two seasons.
And with only one playoff appearance in his five seasons with the Lions, that could certainly be construed as at least some broad definition of a failure.