Saturday, January 17, 2009

Schwartz and the Lions

Okay, let's get this out of the way. I am excited about this hire. Given the universe of candidates, he is the guy I wanted Detroit to select. And I don't mean that in a 'given their alternatives' sense, but rather in an absolute one. Other than coaches currently under contract, the only person I would have preferred is Bill Cowher.

My opinion doesn't make Schwartz a great coach of course. I thought Marinelli was a great hire too but really for different reasons. Schwartz has everything you could want in a coaching pedigree from a first time hire.

Which one of these guys isn't a sex offender?

It is a bit of a stretch to laud his experience with Belichick, but it isn't insignificant that he started in scouting with Belichick. Since then he's had experience with two of the best administrative departments in football, with the Ravens and then more extensively with the Titans. Schwartz's first test will be to exploit his associations and to build a superior staff. The Lions retained much of Marinelli's staff, but that was thought to be a hedge against need. Schwartz met with them and told them that he would work through a process but that each was welcome to pursue other jobs at the Senior Bowl. I expect a good bit of turnover.

It is unlikely that Schwartz will be able to plumb Fisher's staff for help. Fisher is rewarded with unusual levels of loyalty from his assistants. A couple of names that have sprung up are Brian Schottenheimer and Jeremy Bates for OC, but there isn't any substance behind these rumors yet.

So, Schwartz is considered cerebral, chess junkie. He has roots in scouting and claims that it has made him better at taking the long view than most coaches who are more than happy to burn out their team to win This Week, next week be damned. He is into statistical analysis and more likely to consider probabilities when making calls. He isn't locked into a defensive scheme and has proven himself adaptable with Titan personnel from year to year. He demonstrated he can take a defense with a few good players and make them elite. He dropped Bill Belichick's name about ten times at his introductory press conference.

But what does it all mean? Nothing, really. That story is yet to be told.

The next few weeks will be more instructive than his previous 18 years, both as to what kind of a coach he will be and how he will assemble his team. He's put a brave face on things, but the fact is that the Lions have an enormous talent gap, even up to the next worst team. That isn't a conclusion based on the record, but rather the record was merely a symptom of this fact. Marinelli kept the team fighting in every game but they simply weren't talented enough to compete. There is really no reason to expect anything different with Schwartz unless they can assemble a talented group of football players who can execute his schemes.

But if nothing else, it is fun to be a Lion fan again, at least until the first week in September.

edit: Adam Schefter reporting that Detroit has asked permission to interview Gunther Cunningham for DC and that Cunningham expects to join Schwartz. They worked together three years in Tennessee.


  1. >> He dropped Bill Belichick's name about ten times

    This might not merely be name-dropping. I think it's possible Belichick makes an impact on the people who work with him. Ozzie of the Ravens every once in a while busts out a reference to "something I learned from Bill Belichick" etc. It's been over a decade since they worked together, and Ozzie has credentials of his own -- won his SB before Belichick did, actually. Yet Ozzie still mentions him.

  2. What's really notable about Schwartz is the coachesand administrators he's worked with is a who's who in the fraternity. Belichick, Whisenhunt, Fisher, Newsome, Pioli (they hate each other according to PFT), Nick Saban, Cunningham, Marvin Lewis, Kirk Ferenz, Phil Savage, Kokenis, Mangini, Munchak.

    Assuming Schwartz is willing to rely on his network, you think he won't pick up the phone and call Ozzie or Belichick or Lewis for an opinion on a coach he's considering? I am really optimistic about the kind of staff he will assemble.


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