So, here we are. I haven’t written anything for more than a year, but this moment seems too big to not write about. Especially as a Lions fan and considering Schwartz’ long tenure with the organization, it’s a big day for the team and fans. So I thought I’d just add my input.
I guess I’ll start with my original opinion before today. I wanted Schwartz fired before the Ravens loss, but the Ravens loss cemented my position.
It took me a while to come around on the idea of firing Schwartz. I was a defender of him after 2012’s 4-12 season, as I argued that the injuries the Lions’ suffered weren’t small enough to overcome. To jog your memory, at one point last year, the Lions were playing without: Chris Houston, Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood, Nate Burleson, Titus Young & Ryan Broyles. Obviously we know what happened to Titus, but the Lions were playing without their #1, #2 & #3 CB’s, leaving them with Jonte Green and Drayton Florence as their outside guys. And weren’t playing with their #2, #3 & #4 WR’s, leaving them with an outside duo of Calvin Johnson and Kris Durham. This, to me, had nothing to do with Schwartz, was just awful luck and wasn’t a fireable reason.
However, this year, there were no injury excuses. Chris Houston regressed badly, Calvin played through torn knee ligaments since September, but still put up close to 1500 yards and 12 TD’s. Stafford regressed badly, as well, basically leading the Lions to their 1-6 record after starting 6-3. Stafford was awful, he couldn’t stop turning the ball over or making dumb throws to bring up fourth down. His mechanics got worse than what they already were, including some awful decision making, like throwing sidearm to Joique Bell on a 3rd down screen with no defender in his face. You can’t make stupid decisions in key situations, which Stafford did after the bye.
There’s been reports the coaches weren’t hard enough on Stafford, nor made him accountable for his mistakes. Now, any knowledgeable Lions fan knows Shaun Hill wasn’t the answer to win games, so benching Stafford wouldn’t have helped the team win games, however if the reports are true, then the coaching staff has to bear a lot of the weight of what happened this season.
Along with Schwartz, Scott Linehan and Tim Lappano were also let go. Both of which I agree with. I know very little of Tim Lappano, as do a lot of people when they’re not front and centre like Head Coaches and Coordinators, but the WR play was not good this year, leading the league in drops along with being ineffective in their routes, it was a bit of a no-brainer. Linehan was a complete no-brainer, though. He and Stafford were the major factors for what happened, in my opinion. Linehan’s playcalling was awful a lot of times. The infamous ‘3rd and short, empty backfield’ sets drove fans insane. The plays almost never worked, because Stafford was playing so poorly, he’d either miss the receiver or the opposition would only rush 3 or 4 and were able to cover up any open receivers. A lot of games were lost on the ‘3rd and short, empty backfield’ plays. A smart decision to let him go.
No other coaches, outside of those three have been given their marching orders and Tom Lewand (Lions’ President) and Martin Mayhew (General Manager) said other coaching choices would come down to the new head coach.
In reality, the Lions don’t need a complete coaching overhaul. Gunther Cunningham absolutely deserves to stay on. The Lions going 1-6 was all on the offense. Cunningham had the defense playing at an absolutely great level in those losses, but they couldn’t overcome the Lions awful offense turning the ball over and putting them in positions of the opponent starting their drive in the Lions’ half. I wouldn’t be adverse to changing the D-Line coach (Kris Kocurek), though. He just hasn’t gotten enough out of this D-Line to stick around, in my opinion. You have the best Defensive Tackle, and arguably best Defensive Tackle tandem, yet Suh and Fairley didn’t do enough to stop the opposing QB. Suh did grade out as one of the top players according to Pro Football Focus, but I’m still not convinced Kocurek’s the guy for the job. Suh has unbelievable skill and talent, but it needs to be more refined.
A few other coaches who deserve to stick around: Offensive Line coach, Jeremiah Washburn. Special Teams coach, John Bonamego, Running Backs coach Curtis Modkins (this guy should get some calls to be an Offensive coordinator, in my opinion) Linebackers coach, Matt Burke (could get some Defensive coordinator inquiries) and Secondary coach Marcus Robertson. Considering what Robertson had to work with at Cornerback, specifically, the guy definitely deserves to stay on.
One name not on there is Todd Downing, QB’s coach. He deserves to be fired, as well. If his job is to try and make Stafford better, then that was a complete and utter failure.
Having said all that, let’s see, both, who the new Head Coach is and who he wants to bring in.
Moving on to the coach I want to lead this team.
There’s a lot of ranging opinions on this, with a lot of people wanting Bill O’Brien, though this seems unlikely as he could sign with the Texans any day now. Others want Ken Wisenhunt from the Chargers, which would be my second choice. And others want Lovie Smith.
Honestly, I don’t think any of them are bad choices, but the Lions need a leader who’ll be hard on players, while still able to get the best out of them.
With that in mind, my ideal coach is Mike Zimmer, Defensive Coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. Zimmer won’t be interviewing until the Bengals’ season finishes, but he’s proven he can keep his players inline. Players that include Vontaze Burfict and Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones, two players no other teams would touch with a ten-foot poll. But not only has he gotten those guys under control, they’ve become very respectable starters on a very good Bengals defense. Vontaze Burfict even led the league in tackles.
Obviously this is all completely hypothetical, and there’s a lot more to it than just getting Zimmer and all problems are solved. The Lions need an innovative OC who can get the best out of the players and take some pressure of Stafford, along with a guy (OC/QBC or otherwise) who can help Matthew Stafford get to that next level.
Zimmer may fix the locker room, but he’ll need help with other coaches who have a plan to fix Stafford and implement a winning mentality in that locker room.