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Published: Friday, 1/16/2009

Lions hope Schwartz can lead turnaround from 0-16

ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Lions plan to introduce Jim Schwartz as their next coach Friday, a day after agreeing to a four-year contract with him. The Lions plan to introduce Jim Schwartz as their next coach Friday, a day after agreeing to a four-year contract with him.
MARK HUMPHREY / AP Enlarge

DETROIT Jim Schwartz has been crunching numbers since he earned a degree in economics at Georgetown.

Instead of analyzing dollars and cents, Schwartz has used computers to help prepare football teams to win.

Detroit is desperately hoping he can come up with a formula to fix a franchise coming off an 0-16 season, an eight-season stretch that has been the worst in the league since World War II and a run of over 50 years with only one playoff win.

The Lions planned to introduce Schwartz as their next coach Friday, a day after agreeing to a four-year contract with him.

If you talk about a quick turnaround, it s probably not going to happen, Schwartz said earlier in the week after his second interview with the Lions. If you talk about getting better every single day, then you have a chance to be there.

Schwartz had other career opportunities as a graduate from a prestigious college, but he chose to work 100 hours a week in the hopes of being a football coach.

It paid off.

The 42-year-old Schwartz worked his way up through the league, beginning as a scout in Cleveland, moving on as an assistant in Baltimore, then becoming one of the league s best defensive coordinators in Tennessee.

I ve been around the NFL for 16 years, he said. I bring a combination of youth and experience that maybe some people don t have.

Detroit interviewed several candidates, including Dolphins assistant head coach Todd Bowles twice, and showed interest Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

After an extensive search that included several highly qualified coaches, we are thrilled that Jim Schwartz will become our team s head coach, team president Tom Lewand said in a statement. (General manager) Martin (Mayhew) and I believe that Jim s qualifications and vision will lead this organization on the field toward our goal of becoming a championship football team.

The Lions fired Rod Marinelli two weeks ago after he went 10-38 in three seasons, dropping Detroit to 31-97 since 2001 when former team president Matt Millen took over a mediocre franchise and turned it into a laughingstock.

The Chicago Cardinals, who won just 23 percent of their games from 1936-43, are the last team to perform as poorly as Detroit has over an eight-season stretch.

Leading an infamously futile team only seems to motivate Schwartz.

I don t shy away from a challenge, he said Monday at a news conference that was part of his interview process.

Schwartz just finished his eighth season as the Titans defensive coordinator and his 10th on their staff.

Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher congratulated the Lions for hiring the right guy and said in a statement that Schwartz will be missed.

In his eight years as our defensive coordinator, Jim has clearly put his stamp on that side of the ball, Fisher said. He is competitive, a tremendous communicator and motivator, and in our opinion, he has been ready for this next step for several years.

Detroit will count on Schwartz to use his background to come up with ways to improve a defense that ranked last in the league and gave up 517 points threatening the NFL record for points allowed (533) in a season set by the 1981 Baltimore Colts.

There s no better feeling than turning a situation around, he has said.

Schwartz started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Maryland in 1989, later had the same position at Minnesota and went on to become a secondary coach for North Carolina Central and linebackers coach at Colgate.

The Baltimore native became a head coaching candidate because of his work in Tennessee, leading to interviews in previous years with Miami, Atlanta, Washington and San Francisco.

His 2003 defense ranked first in the NFL in rushing defense and led the league in third down defense at 27.7 percent the lowest since the 1998 Oakland Raiders. The Titans ranked in the top seven in yards allowed each of the past two seasons and finished second in points allowed per game at 14.6 in 2008.

The avid chess player analyzes football-related statistics, looking for tendencies, and has the ability to relay what he has learned to players.

He s on the computer all the time, Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse said. He s looking up stats. He s looking up different type of tendencies, down and distance and all those things.

When you play the game on the computer then take that part on the field and use it with our athletes, then good things can happen for your team.

The Lions can only hope.



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