In recent days it hit me. Even before today’s typical Lions loss to a team with lesser talent – this time the Minnesota Vikings – a word popped into my mind that truly speaks to what this underachieving team lacks as it searches for answers. As they seek to find a way to win a game with a fourth-quarter lead (they’ve lost six of their last seven with such an advantage). As they seek to win a game in December (their last ‘w’ coming on Christmas Eve 2011). As the quest for a division title, a playoff win, a turnaround continues, what the Lions need to overcome more years of futility is: poise. And that’s why Jim Schwartz needs to go.
I have nothing personal against Schwartz. Two years ago as the Detroit Lions were moving in a positive direction after their abysmal 0-16 season, I had an opportunity to chat with the coach, one-on-one, at a charity event. He said he was headed next to watch his daughters play soccer; it was off-season and he mentioned that during the regular season he typically only saw his family one day a week. He was engaging and appreciative as I thanked him for his dedication and for making football in Motown fun to watch again. That was then.
That said, when you look back on his 5-year tenure with the Lions you see two things. One is a terrible record. In fact, Schwartz’s winning percentage is the worst by an NFL coach in his first full five years since John McKay coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers between 1976 and 1980 (an expansion team no less). The other is an ongoing lack of discipline, the antithesis of poise. From the Suh stomp to the Harbaugh tussle to a seemingly endless stream of ill-timed interceptions, fumbles, off-sides and unnecessary roughness penalties (not to mention past off the field player foibles), this team just can’t get it together. A 29-52 record over the last half a decade proves it.
Schwartz finally sealed his fate last week against the New York Giants by yelling at booing fans. Who does that? Sure, Bobby Knight used to throw chairs at referees but can you remember an instance at any level in any sport where a head coach got into it with paying customers? It is virtually unprecedented and, in the end, the final straw that will broom one more failed regime out the door. The tone of any organization is set at the top. And the Fords aren’t going anywhere.