Playing the Odds: Schwartz In Good Position

It is probably safe to assume that new Lions coach Jim Schwartz is familiar with the sad numbers surrounding the Detroit Lions. Perhaps knowing the odds is the best way to defy them.

The search for the Detroit Lions' next head coach has concluded with Jim Schwartz left standing.

Schwartz, who signed a four-year deal with the Lions, enters a difficult situation as he inherits a team with sub-par talent, a frustrated fan base and a losing legacy.

Schwartz, however, claims to enjoy a challenge.

"I don't shy away from a challenge," Said Schwartz when addressing the Detroit media after his second interview with the team. "…There's no better feeling than turning a situation around."

Schwartz brings an impressive and extensive resume with him to the motor city.

The 42 year-old Maryland native has spent the last 10 seasons with the Tennessee Titans, the last eight as defensive coordinator. During his time in Tennessee Schwartz served under Jeff Fisher, who has developed a reputation as a top-notch coach. He also spent three years under Bill Belichick while working with the Cleveland Browns.

Schwartz has had the opportunity to experience success, disappointment and re-building.

He was there when the Titans were 13-3 and considered one of the best teams in the league. He was also there when the Titans finished 4-12 and were considered to be on the league's worst teams. And, perhaps most importantly, he was there during the team's rebuilding and eventual turnaround process that saw them finish with the league's best record in 2008.

Now, Schwartz goes from first to worst, as he leaves the league's top regular season record for the league's worst – although Schwartz may have the skills and experience needed to improve this struggling franchise.

It is fairly evident that the Detroit Lions' roster, primarily on defense, will be gutted.

The Lions owned the league's worst defense in 2008 and were, statistically, one of the worst NFL defenses in decades. The front office has expressed a desire to ‘get bigger and stronger' on that side of the ball and the team is likely to fill many voids with draft picks.

This is one area that Schwartz can provide some expertise.

Early in the decade, when the Titans ran into cap problems, Schwartz had to work with a makeshift defense filed with inexperience and youth. Despite the initial growing pains, Schwartz was able to mold the unit into the dominate group it is today.

Another quality that Schwartz offers is flexibility. Some of the biggest failures of the Lions' previous coaching regimes have been the insistence of forcing players into schemes they did not fit into. Rod Marinelli did it on defense with the Tampa Two and Steve Mariucci did it on offense with the West Coast Offense. Schwartz will not make the same mistakes as he has indicated that he will adopt philosophies that will reflect the strengths of his roster.

Perhaps the most important area of experience Schwartz can offer is his prior work as a scout.

The Lions' failure in talent evaluation has been well documented and having a head coach who previously worked as a scout can only help in the area. Schwartz spent three years in Cleveland as both a college and pro scout.

Schwartz graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in economics and is an avid chess player. He is considered to be one of the league's most intelligent coaches and is also considered to be one of the league's best at statistical analysis – often analyzing data to identifies trend.

Detroit has a restless fan base, a suspect roster and a reputation for being a quick career killer for head coaches. The team has employed six head coaches over the last 12 seasons, meaning the average lifespan of a Lions coach ended after two seasons and with failure.

It is probably safe to assume that Schwartz is familiar with the numbers.

Perhaps knowing the odds is the best way to defy them.


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