Monday, December 23, 2013

The case against Jim Schwartz

It very much looks like the Jim Schwartz era of the Detroit Lions will come to an end sometime in the next 7 days. After five years we can effectively argue that his squads have underachieved, but he does deserve a lot of credit. However, at the end of the day Jim has likely taken this team as far as he can and this is a roster that needs a coach that can get them to the next level.

In a lot of ways Jim has been is own worst enemy. There is the profanity laced tirade directed at the fans yesterday at Ford Field that was very reminiscent of Marty Mornhinweg going off on fans at the Pontiac Silverdome. There was the press conference where Jim adamantly proclaimed that he was not afraid to be aggressive but with 30 seconds left on the clock he played for OT in a game his team had to win. Jim seems to have a substantial inferiority complex that makes him ill suited to be an NFL head coach, even more ill suited to have a locker room full of guys with character concerns. Granted the Lions front office has done a better job with the personnel over the last year.

In the end Jim's record of 29-50 over five seasons simply isn't good enough. Since he was put into a position no other head coach in the history of this game was, taking over  team that went 0-16, Jim does deserves a lot of credit. He improved the team, helped get better talent, he helped change the culture of losing, and he installed some toughness on this team. I would give him a pass in 2009 going 2-14. That would make his overall record 27-36. Based on that along he could deserve one more year. However, the problem with this team comes down to one word...

Accountability.

That is what this roster lacks, and it is why they do not win consistently. The Lions lost their final 8 games of 2012 and the solution was to fire the wide outs coach. Had this team fired their offensive coordinator or the defensive coordinator some accountability would have been been installed in the hearts and minds of the players. Instead the Lions brain trust once more thought of themselves as the smartest people in the room and flt they had all the pieces to contend, once they had added Reggie Bush.

In the month of December QB Matthew Stafford has not had a total QB rating above 30.0, and he has thrown five interceptions to one TD and yet Schwartz never sat him. Schwartz never went to capable backup Shaun Hill to send the message to Stafford that substandard play simply isn't good enough. Why wasn't Stafford benched once, even if only for a series? Stafford has cost this team on the field over and over again.

Another strike against Jim is his team's record in December. In five years he has just a 6-14 record in the final month of the season. Three times in his five years he has gone win less in December, he has a chance to win a final game next Sunday to improve his record in the final month of the season. Sure in 2010 and 2011 he did get his team to go 3-1, but overall his record in December suggests to me his message, his management style grows stale to players. I seriously think that his players stop listening to him towards the end of the season and that he does not know how to properly motivate a team for a full 16 game schedule.

Another strike against Jim is that not only do his teams lose, but they lose it bunches. Every year, outside of 2011, the Lions have had a losing streak of at least three games. Sure, that suggests that the player are mentally weak but I submit to all of you that that is yet another problem in Schwartz's coaching style. 2012 they lost their final 8 games. They also had a three game losing streak early on. Right now they have lost three straight and won just 1 of the last 6 games. Going back to a point when this team was 6-3 with a very favorable schedule and control of their own destiny.

This team, and Stafford in particular, do not play well under pressure. This roster has a hard time coming up with big plays late in games to seal victories, they cannot close. I submit to all of you that is a side effect of poor coaching. Simply put there is too much talent on this roster for the Lions to not be in the playoffs.

Worse that all that are the truly ugly losses this year. I am not talking about poor play, or mistakes, or mental errors I am talking about losing games to inferior NFL teams at home no less. The Lions lost to the New York Giants and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home. They lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road. Those teams have a combined 17-28 record. The Giants and the Bucs are a combined 4-11 on the road. I am not saying the Lions should have won all three of those games, but they damn well should have won two of them. For me that is an indictment of the coaching staff.

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