Jim Schwartz is a historian and a statistician.
While in Detroit earlier this week for an interview with
Lions owner William Clay Ford, Schwartz took part in a press conference and was asked about the team's most pressing needs.
"Quarterback is the trump card of all positions in the NFL," Schwartz said. "It's probably time to find a replacement for Bobby Layne."
Now, that's history, folks. Layne quarterbacked the Lions during the glory years of the 1950s. He was traded to Pittsburgh in 1958 and in the half-century since the Lions have had one quarterback selected one time for a Pro Bowl (Greg Landry, 1972) and have won a single playoff game (1991, vs. Dallas).
So, a tip of the hat to Schwartz and his grasp of all things Lions.
But now that he's the head coach of this motley, 0-for-2008 crew, perhaps we should share another tidbit of Lions history with him.
Since 1965, and not including those who held interim positions, Detroit has had 12 head coaches. Not one of them was ever hired as head coach of another NFL team in the aftermath of his tenure with the Lions.
Schwartz, who has an economics degree from Georgetown and relies heavily on statistical analysis as a tool in game preparation, might want to feed that info into his laptop.
Anyway, welcome to the
Lions, where coaching careers wither on the vine, die, and
scatter in the breeze.
After all, this is the franchise whose fans refer to Wayne Fontes' regime as the good, old days.
It's hard to know which section of the Hallmark store to find the perfect card for Schwartz - congratulations, get well soon, or sympathy.
The man, most recently the defensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans, must have a strong stomach.
"I don't shy away from a challenge," he said. "One of the best feelings in sports is turning something around. Obviously, the system in the NFL affords us the capability of turning something around."
True enough. But the system has been around for a long time and the Lions have pretty much mastered the art of botching it for a lot of years. Of course, Arizona playing in the NFC championship game does prove that, like a blind squirrel, even the most hapless franchises can find a nut now and then. Perhaps there is hope.
Schwartz has a pretty good pedigree. He worked for the respected Jeff Fisher in Tennessee and started out in the scouting department under Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli during their pre-genius days in Cleveland.
So, Schwartz does arrive with a plan that includes a grasp of the ground floor - scouting and drafting. As for the Xs and Os, don't hold your breath expecting him to come up with the next big thing. It's pretty basic stuff.
"You've got to be big and strong and be able to run the football and stop the run," he said. "I know Ford Field is a great place to play, but you're going to play an important game in Green Bay in December, or you're going to play an important game in Chicago in January, and you'd better be built for it."
During Matt Millen's eight-year reign of tears, the Lions were pretty much built to be consistently inconsistent, which this past season translated to the baddest of bad. It won't be easy to dig out. But Schwartz says he likes a challenge.
Well, by golly, he has found one.
Contact Blade sports columnist
Dave Hackenberg at: