Detroit Lions: Ranking the top 7 coaches in franchise history

Detroit Lions (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

Honorable Mentions

First, before we start the ranking, let me throw out a couple of Honorable Mentions. Don McCafferty was hired as the Lions coach in 1973. He had previously led the Baltimore Colts to victory in Super Bowl V over the Dallas Cowboys in his first year as a head coach.

In 1973 he led the Lions to a 6-7 record finished in second place in the NFC Central as the division was called in those days. The feeling was that the players were buying-in to his system and he had a chance to do some really good things in Detroit.

Unfortunately, on July, 28th 1974, McCafferty suffered a heart attack while mowing his lawn and passed away. No one will ever know what he could have done in the Motor City.

The second Honorable mention is Jim Schwartz. Following the winless season of 2008, the Lions sent head coach Rod Marinelli packing and replaced him with Schwartz who had been the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator.

Jim Schwartz certainly had his faults. Like the way he always played the ‘smartest man in the room’ role. Schwartz had the ability to rub people the wrong way and he was given a franchise to build from the ground up. Schwartz coached from 2009-2013 and accumulated a record of 29-51.

2011 was Schwartz’s best season as the Lions finished 10-6 and made the playoffs as a wildcard team. Unfortunately, Detroit’s defense didn’t look too much like the units he had coached in Tennessee and the Saints not only marched in but all over the Lions on the way to a 45-28 victory in the Wildcard matchup.

Ultimately, as the team regressed after the 2011 season, Schwartz became ‘Lionized’ and couldn’t keep his composure as his temper got the best of him when the losses mounted and he was shown the door following the 2013 season after going 7-9.

Schwartz may not have been a great coach, but he did help turn a winless franchise into a competitive one that laid the foundation for the success of Jim Caldwell and deserves the shout out just like McCafferty.

Now here are the top seven coaches in Detroit Lions history.