Oct 20, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz during the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Ford Field. Bengals won 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Schwartz is a love-him-or-hate-him kind of guy, which, considering he’s a contemporary of Jeff Fisher and Bill Belichick, should surprise exactly nobody. He’s a fiery guy, but since he isn’t an old curmudgeon like Belichick or a storied veteran like Jim Harbaugh, he tends to come off as petulant at times.
And what, you ask, does this temperamental profile have to do with his coaching ability?
Nothing at all. Well, almost nothing. Schwartz has a history of letting his emotions get the best of him, to the point that it costs his team. Look no further than last Thanksgiving to see what I mean. But the instances in which his intensity is harmful are rare, and the rest of the time his team feeds off it.
The Lions are still one of the most-penalized teams in the NFL (prior to Week 9, they were tied for 26th in penalties assessed), and I actually like his philosophy on penalty prevention. The Lions really need to prevent procedural pre- and post-play penalties, and the others, if incidental, can be justified. His goal is to get his team to play aggressive, first and foremost, which is what the team is based on (for better or worse).
Schwartz has taken some heat for conservative end-of-half playcalling, but maybe his quarterback’s epic 80-yard, 50-second drive against the Cowboys will change some minds on that going forward.
I want to give special attention to something that generally only gets talked about when it gets screwed up: clock management. Schwartz has been really good at it this year.
Against Dallas, Schwartz used his team’s timeouts perfectly. He let Dallas make the mistakes to keep the clock stopped (when they could have been running it), and used timeouts when they made the most sense. Had Schwartz misused a single timeout in the second half, the Lions would have been unable to stop the clock twice on the Cowboys’ final drive, and Dallas would have been able to kneel out the clock.
Contrary to what may or may not be popular opinion, Schwartz is a smart guy who is doing a decent job of running this football team right now. Their execution in all phases is better right now than it has been throughout his tenure, despite issues with penalties and the occasional temper flare.