With all the talent on the Detroit Lions team, there is no reason for them to not make the playoffs every year. They have a first overall pick playing quarterback in Matthew Stafford, the best wide receiver in the league in Calvin Johnson, two different but dynamic running backs in Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, and one of the best defensive fronts in football. What’s holding them back?
The answer is Jim Schwartz. In Schwartz’ five seasons with the Lions (who only have nine starters that were not selected in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft) they only finished above .500 once, and that came in 2011 when they limped into their only postseason appearance of the Schwartz era on a two-game losing streak.
It would be the first in a series of three late season collapses, the most recent of which led to his firing. In 2012, the Lions started average at 4-4 before losing their final eight games. Many thought Schwartz should have been fired after that debacle, but Lions management gave him one more season to show his late season folding skills.
In 2013 the Lions got out to a hot start at 6-3 and had ideas of taking over the injury-riddled NFC North. They failed to do so, losing six of their last seven games, having held fourth-quarter leads in each of those games.
Schwartz’ team had consistently been the least disciplined team in the league. Penalties and turnovers were far too common, and led to losses in many games that should have been won. Only two teams had more fumbles than the Lions in 2013, and the Lions had double- digit negative numbers in the turnover margin for three out of the five seasons that Schwartz had been the coach.
It cannot be forgotten that Schwartz took over an 0-16 team. He did a great job of adding talent to the roster and making it a team which could compete, but their lack of mental toughness and discipline ultimately led to Schwartz being shown the door. If the Lions can land a Jimmy Johnson-type coach, one who demands excellence, then they will be well on their way to their first Super Bowl appearance.