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Commentary: Why would you fire Jim Schwartz and keep Martin Mayhew?

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It is a premature question, but why would you fire Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and keep general manager Martin Mayhew?

Didn’t Mayhew hire Schwartz? Didn’t they pose together in a picture with team president Tom Lewand in January, 2009 after Schwartz was hired as the Lions' new head coach?

They are the mighty trio of Lions leaders, yet the overwhelming amount of criticism has been leveled against Schwartz after the New York Giants beat Detroit, 23-20, in overtime Sunday. (To test this observation, use your favorite Internet search engine and see if Mayhew or Lewand are mentioned in any post-game articles.)

Lewand is safe, because he runs the business side of the Detroit franchise. He must be pretty smart to be able to market an inconsistent product like the Lions.

Mayhew was Matt Millen’s chief lieutenant and was the architect behind the trading of wide receiver Roy Williams to Dallas for 1st, 3rd and 6th round picks in the 2009 NFL draft. Three picks for Williams and a 7th round pick seemed like a shrewd move.

Detroit drafted tight end Brandon Pettigrew, wide receiver Derrick Williams and running back Aaron Brown with the extra picks. (Feel free to make your own judgment on those selections.)

Then I am reminded of what I wrote in a January 2, 2013 Examiner article: “Step #1 in turning the Detroit Lions into a perennial playoff contender is telling general manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz that the Lions must be 9-7 in 2013 or they’re gone.”

Bearing the anguish felt by many Lions fans after another disappointing year, I declared: “Business can be cruel and make no mistake; professional football is a sports entertainment business. You can be the subject matter of Jay Leno’s comedy monologue on ‘The Tonight Show’ or you can be declared the best of the best by the national media. Which would you prefer? Or more importantly, which type of publicity sells more tickets and team merchandise?”

“There was a time in the NFL (maybe the 20th Century) when franchise owners gave their leadership team five years to make the club a playoff contender. 2013 is the fifth year for the Mayhew-Schwartz regime and they must produce a winner.”

Mayhew and Schwartz or Schwartz and Mayhew are joined together. They started their respective jobs within two months of each other. So why would Mayhew be permitted to stay if Schwartz and his staff are fired?

Statistics not in Mayhew and Schwartz’s favor

With one game to go, consider Detroit’s record over the last five years under the guidance of Mayhew and Schwartz:

  • 29-51 with one playoff appearance (a loss to New Orleans in January, 2012)
  • 17-23 at home and 12-28 on the road
  • 9-20 in NFC North divisional play

If the Lions beat the Vikings in the season finale, the Mayhew-Schwartz team will have 30 victories in five years. If Mayhew and Schwartz are both back in 2014, would you continue to support a team that averages six wins a season?

The prototypical playoff team needs to accomplish the following:

  • Enter the playoffs with at least a 10-6 record
  • Finish 4-2 in division games
  • Win six home games
  • Win four road games

One sad note is the Lions may satisfy the second and fourth conditions, but their miserable performances at Ford Field cost them a division crown and a playoff spot. And that may sting owner William Clay Ford Sr. and Bill Ford Jr. the most – not just losing home games, but losing them in embarrassing ways.

Need for constant discipline

I also wrote in the January article that “Mayhew and Schwartz need to enforce a renewed sense of discipline in 2013. It is easier to excuse misbehavior when you are 10-6 and believe better days are ahead of you. It is a lot tougher sale when you stumble to 4-12 during a season of miscues on and off the field.”

The Lions leadership thought they made a course correction when they got rid of assistant coaches Shawn Jefferson, Sam Gash and George Yarno, but the current staff of assistants must bear the burden with Schwartz and Mayhew in failing to correct all of the mistakes the Lions made.

Mayhew, Schwartz and the coaches did not reverse the takeaway/giveaway differential in 2013. The Lions were +11 in 2011 when they made the playoffs. They were -18 during their 2-14 season in 2009, +4 in 2010, -16 in 2012 and -14 in 15 games this year.

“It is a discipline issue,” I wrote in January. “You secure and protect the football on offense. You take away the football on defense. You win the battle in the trenches and you never surrender points to your opponents on special teams.” Prophetic or pathetic?

The 2013 edition of the Detroit Lions will not finish 9-7, win a division title or make the playoffs, so Mayhew and Schwartz need to exit and the Fords need to bring in a new, improved leadership team.

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