ALLEN PARK -- When the decision was made to hire Jim Schwartz as head coach of the Detroit Lions in January of 2009, there was a tremendous amount of confidence within the organization.
Schwartz was known for his intelligence, work ethic and competiveness and – for those reasons – was believed to be the perfect candidate for the position.
After two and a quarter seasons at the helm, Schwartz has demonstrated more than the endearing characteristics that made him an attractive option to the front office. He's also proved to an outstanding leader to his players.
"Coach Schwartz, he's a great coach," said defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill after Wednesday's practice. "The attitude that he brings reflects on us. We feel the same way. It's actually a good thing to have a coach like that because no matter what the situation is, winning or losing, he's going to bring that spunk and attitude that we need. "
Schwartz often portrays an even-keel demeanor when speaking to the media and can be a master of head-coach lingo - the anti-Rex Ryan, so to speak.
Don't let that charade fool you, however, as Schwartz is as competitive as they come.
He exhibited that competiveness last week during the team's contest against the Dallas Cowboys.
After Cowboys' receiver Dez Bryant celebrated a soon-to-be-challenged (and eventually overturned) reception, Schwartz, who challenged the catch, took exception to some of Bryant's trash talking -- and wasn't afraid to let him know. Schwartz could be seen during the FOX television broadcast vibrantly waving "incomplete" in Bryant's direction, along with a few inaudible words.
"He's a competitor and saw Dez talk a little noise," said cornerback Chris Houston. "Coach is going to back us 100 percent and talk noise back. That's how he is. We feed off of him a lot." Schwartz has no fear when defending his players; he's done so publicly and privately, demonstrating a personality not necessarily common amongst NFL head coaches.
"He's definitely a head coach you can relate to," said wide receiver Nate Burleson. "I don't want to say he's a player's coach because people get the wrong impression of that type of guy. He's definitely someone who can emulate how we feel and how we play on the field. You see him on game day, he gets into it. There are not a lot of coaches with that type of excitement."
Under Schwartz's guidance, the team has achieved their first 4-0 start since 1980 and have adopted his personality on and off the field.
Like Schwartz, they understand the importance of each game and do not waver in their approach. Also like Schwartz, they step on the field with emotion and a burning desire to win. NFL players are professionals, they are paid to compete. However, some players will go the extra mile for their team and under a coach that earns and commands respect.
That is only achieved when their coach will do the same for them.
"He's more like another guy in the locker room but a father figure too," said Houston. "You can go to him if you need anything off the field. He's very reasonable. (With) a lot of head coaches in the NFL you don't have relationships like that. He's one of those guys you can have a relationship with."
Every team needs a leader. There's a good one roaming the sidelines for the Lions.
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