Monday, January 12, 2009
Updated: January 13, 11:12 AM ET
Schwartz eager to coach Lions
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions put Jim Schwartz behind a podium to answer questions from reporters as part of their second interview with the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator.
If it was part of his evaluation, he seemed to pass it.
Schwartz cracked one joke when asked what he would do with the No. 1 pick in the draft and his potential boss got a kick out of his answer.
"It's probably time to find a replacement for Bobby Layne," Schwartz said, showing he knows at least a little about the history of perhaps the NFL's worst franchise.
Team president Tom Lewand doubled over, then composed himself enough to avoid bursting out with laughter.
What isn't a joke, though, is how bad Detroit has been and how much it has failed to draft or acquire a viable, long-term option at quarterback.
Since winning a title in 1957 with Layne under center, the Lions have the same number of playoff victories as Pro Bowl QBs: one.
The chance to lead the NFL's first 0-16 team seems to only motivate Schwartz to get the job and succeed at it.
"I don't shy away from a challenge," Schwartz said.
Schwartz said he expected to meet with team owner William Clay Ford as part of his visit. He declined to say if other teams have expressed an interest in hiring him.
Detroit interviewed Schwartz after the regular season and had to wait for Tennessee to be eliminated from the playoffs to speak to him again. The Titans lost to Baltimore on Saturday.
The Lions, who fired Rod Marinelli after his team made history, also have interest in numerous other candidates including Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.
San Diego coach Norv Turner confirmed the Lions asked for permission to interview Rivera, who told teams he didn't want to pursue other opportunities until the Chargers' season ended and they were eliminated Sunday at Pittsburgh.
Messages seeking comment were left for Frazier, Spagnuolo's agent, Bob LaMonte, and Rivera's agent, Frank Bauer.
Schwartz just finished his 10th season with the Titans, his eighth as defensive coordinator.
Before being hired in Tennessee, he spent three years on the Baltimore Ravens' staff. He also was a college and pro scout for the Cleveland Browns and that experience might be valuable in Detroit.
The Lions have the No. 1 pick in April, along with first- and third-round picks from the Dallas Cowboys, and need to find players to spark a turnaround.
Schwartz said his background in scouting is an asset for him as a candidate in Detroit.
If the Lions hire Schwartz, he would also be counted on to come up with ways to improve a defense that ranked last in the league and gave up 517 points -- threatening the NFL record for points allowed (533) in a season set by the 1981 Baltimore Colts.
"There's no better feeling than turning a situation around," he said.
The 42-year-old Schwartz played linebacker at Georgetown, where he earned a degree in economics.
He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Maryland in 1989, later had the same position at Minnesota and went on to become a secondary coach for North Carolina Central and linebackers coach at Colgate.
The Baltimore native became a candidate to be a head coach because of what he's done in Tennessee.
His resume and style led to interviews in previous years with Miami, Atlanta, Washington and San Francisco.
The Titans ranked in the top seven in yards allowed each of the past two seasons and finished second in points allowed per game at 14.6 in 2008. His 2003 defense ranked first in the NFL in rushing defense and led the league in third down defense at 27.7 -- the lowest since the 1998 Oakland Raiders.
The avid chess player analyzes football-related statistics, looking for tendencies, then has the ability to relay what he has learned to players.
"You've got to have the right kind of guys who know how to translate it off the computer to the field and play," Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse has said. "He pretty much has what it takes if you ask me."