Lions fire coach Jim Schwartz

Updated: December 31, 2013, 10:11 AM ET
By Michael Rothstein | ESPN.com

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Simply put, Jim Schwartz did not win enough games in his five years as coach of the Detroit Lions -- particularly in the past two seasons -- to warrant keeping him for a sixth season.

That message was evident Monday afternoon, when Lions president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew spoke about the organization's decision to fire Schwartz.

"The simple fact is we have fallen short of the expectations of our ownership, and those expectations are simple," Lewand said. "They, very strongly, want to bring a consistently winning football team to the fans of the city of Detroit.

"We fell short of that, and the decision that was made today was a direct reflection of falling short of that goal. Quite simply, we didn't win enough football games."

Despite winning six of their first nine games this season, the Lions crumbled down the stretch, finishing 7-9 and missing the playoffs.

"I feel awful for [Schwartz]," longtime center Dominic Raiola said. "I feel like we let him down."

Both Lewand and Mayhew felt the coaching performance wasn't commensurate with the talent level assembled on this year's roster.

"I think this will be one of the most, if not the single most, attractive head coaching opportunity in the National Football League for a lot of different reasons, and that starts with our ownership," Lewand said. "I think it also continues with a lot of the talented people we have in our organization, not just in the locker room, although there are many of those.

"We want, the expectation is to bring a consistently winning football team to the city of Detroit immediately."

Lewand indicated the Lions have already started the coaching search and have fielded calls about the position. Mayhew said that the players will not have input in the team's coaching search.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford said he would not mind having input, although he realizes it likely will not happen.

"Yeah, sure," Stafford said. "But I'm not sure that will happen. It's not something I am concerning myself with at this point."

After a 4-4 start in 2012, the Lions lost their last eight games of the season. This season, Detroit was in control of the NFC North before losing six of its last seven games to nose-dive out of the playoff picture and into a meaningless game by the end of the season.

The Lions also fired offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and receivers coach Tim Lappano. The rest of the assistants, including defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, remain under contract for the time being.

Schwartz inherited a team that set an NFL record for futility in 2008 when it became the first in league history to go 0-16. Schwartz coached the Lions to the playoffs in 2011, but four of his five seasons -- including each of the past two years -- ended with losing records.

"[This] place is totally different than when he first came here," Raiola said. "I guess there are three guys left -- I don't know how many guys are still in the NFL from that 0-16 team. For the culture he created, I can't stress enough that this job that he took is one nobody wanted. Who wants that job? A complete rebuild, a complete overhaul -- nobody wants that job. But he took it, and he took it as far as he could take it."

The 47-year-old Schwartz went 29-51 with the Lions, and in 2011 he led Detroit to its first winning record since 2000.

Schwartz informed the players of the decision during a team meeting.

"It was a tough meeting," Raiola said. "He should be proud. He took a job that nobody wanted and he should be proud of where he brought this team from. We were in the cellar, we were in that cave, that tunnel that there is no light. We were the worst team in history. It's crazy."

This season particularly stung for Lions players because of the way it ended. For Raiola, one of the few Lions still with the club from the team's 0-16 season, the way this one ended was worse.

"To me, it feels worse because we had a chance to have a home playoff game and it just feels like we didn't take advantage of that opportunity," Raiola said. "It feels like everything that needed to happen or could have went our way, went our way. And we did not take advantage of those opportunities."

Yet this season, many of the same issues repeated themselves, along with the same excuses from players and coaches about being "one play away."

But the Lions were never able to make that play, which led to Schwartz's eventual firing Monday.

"Just feel bad for a guy like that who is very passionate, has given a lot to the organization and got a lot out of this organization," wide receiver Nate Burleson said. "But it's a business, and when you don't get the results that the organization wants and what the people want, then decisions like this have to be made. So I understand it, but it's tough to deal with."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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