NFC North: Schwartz 0109
Good luck, Jim Schwartz. You're going to need it.
I've heard versions of that sentiment many times this week as Schwartz emerged as the front-runner for Detroit's head-coaching job. The Tennessee defensive coordinator, who accepted the Lions' offer Thursday and will be introduced Friday at Ford Field, is stepping into one of the biggest messes in the NFL.
The Lions offer a better situation than Oakland, but that might be about it. Some of the issues Schwartz no doubt wrangled with this week include:
- A roster that even he noted, in a polite way, "has some holes." Realistically, the Lions are two good drafts away from replenishing their lineup.
- A disconcerting situation in the coaching office, where the team retained 14 of the 18 coaches who finished 2008 under former coach Rod Marinelli. Will Schwartz even be able to hire his own staff? No one in the NFL is certain about that.
- A front office comprised of two longtime Lions employees who have the ear of owner William Clay Ford. President Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew have new titles but did not have to order moving vans when they were hired into their current jobs.
- A worn-down fan base that offers no home-field advantage.
To be clear, I think Schwartz was the best-suited of the Lions' candidates for this job. He is smart, tough-minded and has a superior coaching pedigree.
But to be fair, Schwartz also didn't have a lot of options. Of the nine teams that are making or have made coaching changes this offseason, only the Lions interviewed him. (He spoke with Washington and Atlanta about their openings last offseason.) The Titans were one of the NFL's top teams in 2008, but that success didn't make Schwartz one of the league's hot assistants this offseason.
Which, frankly, makes him ideal for the Lions. Deep down, Detroit officials had to know they were not going to be able to compete for the likes of New York defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo or New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Their job is far from ideal and they knew it would require a certain level of concession from the man who eventually took the job.
If Schwartz wanted to be a head coach in the near future, it was the Lions or nothing. So from this early vantage point, the marriage appears to be a good pairing. The Lions got someone who was willing to take on some unique ballast in order to be their head coach. And Schwartz got a job that no other NFL team was willing to consider him for, at least this year.