I was originally going to write an article on a different subject, but after the debacle of Sunday Night I feel obligated to throw a new subject out there. While I don’t like throwing stuff against the wall just to see what sticks, I have to consider the following point: would the Detroit Lions be better off under a new head coach? In other words – would the Detroit Lions be in a better position, with a Bill Cowher or Brian Billick or a Jeff Fisher at the helm?
While the question might sound premature, please remember that Jim Schwartz is in the 3rd year of a four year contract. As NFL owners hate uncertainty (i.e. lame duck head coaches) a decision must be made this offseason as to Schwartz’s status with the team.
I don’t want to consider it purely from a win/loss record – although that is the ultimate measurable for any organization. I would also consider the general talent level/makeup of team, progression/improvement of the existing players, and game preparation and game performance.
From a talent level, it seems that the Lions are finally as talented as most NFL teams, and perhaps more talented than some. Several successful draft and free agency classes have yielded future stars in Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh, and a clear draft/free agent strategy seems to be in place and working. I am not sure of Schwartz’s level of responsibility here, but he must at least be involved with Martin Mayhew in obtaining the current players on the roster. We will give credit where credit is due.
From a progression level, it is obvious that Lions have come from a roster devoid of talent and an 0-16 record, to playoff contenders, in a matter of three years. That is indisputable. However, they have benefited immensely from their draft position. It isn’t impossible to screw up high round draft picks, but the chances are lower. Other than DeAndre Levy, though, can you name an impact player from the later rounds who has developed into a solid starter (maybe Willie Young)?
Finally, we come to the one that seems the most unsettled – game preparation/game performance. Here, the evidence is also indisputable – the Lions are slow to start games, take too many penalties during the game, and in general seem an undisciplined lot. We don’t know if they would have a better win / loss record than they have now, but for sure they would have had a better chance of winning without the penalties. Here the blame lies solely with Schwartz. It has been an ongoing problem, and it hasn’t been fixed.
I still support Schwartz as the head coach, and I believe a contract extension is in order. However, the Lions are finally in a position, where if they did have an opening, it would be a desired job. You have young talent to build around, world class facilities and a capable GM.
There is a common lesson NFL players learn early on in their careers, and that is that they are evaluated daily. Film, statistics, contract status, health and winning percentage are all used. As soon as someone better or cheaper comes along, they are jettisoned out into the real world without a second thought. Shouldn’t the same thing apply to our head coach?