When he signed on with the Lions in 2009, Jim Schwartz inherited a team that set a record the previous year when their Millenball strategy failed colossally. Detroit became the first team to go winless in a season, leaving Schwartz to pick up the pieces when he arrived.
Schwartz’s first year wasn’t much better, with young Matthew Stafford getting bruised and beaten, resulting in six missed games for the Lions’ first overall pick, and just two wins for the team overall. But the turnaround began in 2010, when the defensive-minded Schwartz watched over a Lions defense that quickly gained respect due to the level of crazy they brought every game (thanks, Ndamukong Suh). That season ended with six wins, and then the next giant step in the franchise transformation came this past season when the Lions won 10 games, clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 1999.
So Schwartz earned a reward, and Friday afternoon he received it. Schwartz, who was entering the final year of his contract, has been given an extension, according to Tim Twentyman of Detroitlions.com.
The terms aren’t available yet, but we can safely assume Schwartz will be compensated handsomely. Guessing that at minimum he’ll be secured for the next four years–making this contract a three-year extension–feels pretty safe too, since he’s been the leader of an incredibly quick and remarkable turnaround. The extension is an inevitable one given Schwartz’s success, which meant there was no way the Lions’ brass would allow him to enter a lame duck season this fall.
But while this rewards Schwartz for a job well done so far, it’s also a statement that over the coming years he’ll be expected to clean up a mess that centers around a problem with discipline, both on and off the field. Just this offseason the Lions have dealt with six arrests, two each from Nick Fairley and Mikel Leshoure, who were both early-round picks a year ago, and are young players expected to make significant contributions. Then there’s Titus Young, another early pick in 2011 who sat out for part of Detroit’s offseason workouts following a scuffle with Louis Delmas.
Schwartz is a football coach, not a guidance councillor or a therapist, so getting adult men to behave like adult men isn’t his area of expertise. Instead, he’s tasked with getting adult men to be great football players.
A solution to the discipline concerns is his current and most pressing problem. From Suh’s stomp to Leshoure’s diet of weed, Schwartz and his staff need to do something–anything–to halt the idiocy, and keep the focus on football.
That mental hurdle has to be cleared before the Lions can vault over their next hurdle collectively, and win a playoff game, and then a championship.