Late in last year’s 4-12 embarrassment by the Lions, coach Jim Schwartz’s name began to emerge as a candidate to be canned. It was believed the buyout on the extension he earned via a 2011 playoff run saved him.
This year, the Lions are one year deeper into the contract, making it cheaper to not keep Schwartz. Conventional wisdom is that, with the Lions officially out of the postseason chase, Schwartz will be out of a job.
Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, ESPN reported Sunday that it would cost the Lions $12 million to part ways with Schwartz, who has a contract that expires after the 2015 season. ESPN also reported that the Lions are beginning the process of identifying candidates to replace Schwartz, who has held the job since 2009, if Schwartz is replaced.
Sunday’s loss to the Giants becomes more glaring in the wake of those reports, given that both the Packers and Bears lost as well. If the Lions had managed to hold off the woeful Giants in overtime, the Detroit would be back in the driver’s seat for the NFC North crown.
Instead, the Lions have nothing to play for as they head to Minnesota to close out the Metrodome. And with six days to go until a season of unfulfilled expectations ends, running back Reggie Bush’s recent words continue to resonate.
Bush called the Lions undisciplined, but he added that he doesn’t blame Schwartz for it. Still, few believe the blame for an undisciplined team doesn’t flow to the head coach.
The challenge for many football coaches is to take a group of guys who possibly lack discipline and get them to play with discipline. Schwartz’s mentor with the Titans, Jeff Fisher, has made a career out of getting guys with a little edge to them to avoid jumping over the line — even if plenty of them tiptoe on the wrong side of it from time to time. And as one league insider pointed out Sunday, Hall of Fame coach John Madden showed that he could get a band of Raiders renegades to play with discipline far more often than not.
In both perception and reality, a lack of discipline has kept a talented Lions team from fulfilling its potential. Add to the lack of discipline a void of player leadership, and it’s no surprise that the Lions have been unable to remain competitive in a division that otherwise has fallen apart this year.
As a result, it won’t be a surprise if Schwartz ends up done in Detroit, possibly rejoining Fisher in St. Louis next season.