The day after the NFL regular season ends is known colloquially as "Black Monday," on account of the fact a bunch of head coaches end up getting the axe. This year was no different, and the inevitable has happened. Jim Schwartz has been fired as the Detroit Lions head coach.
This has felt like it was coming for weeks. Once the Lions started collapsing, it was pretty much a given, and ending the year on a four game losing streak sealed his fate. I can see why this happened, and it isn't entirely unjustified. I don't think Schwartz was the problem, frankly. I also just don't think he was the solution.
Schwartz was the most successful Lions head coach in years. I mean, the team actually went to the playoffs once under him. He finished 29-51 over five seasons, but that was with him taking over for a team that had won exactly zero games the year before. So, you know, he had a hole to climb out of.
The thing is, most coaches in sports don't make the impact a lot of people think. Maybe a great NFL coach can win you a couple extra games, while a terrible one will cost you some. The vast majority, however, maybe get you or lose you a game, and a lot simply break even. This isn't a mathematically proven thing, but what is for certain is that coaches can't really do a ton, especially in the pros as opposed to college. I see Schwartz as one of those guys who pretty much didn't impact the team much either way.
When you have a talented roster, like Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin, you can skate on that. However, when the team doesn't win, you end up getting the blame, and it is always the path of least resistance to fire the head coach. The hope for the Lions will be that they can get one of those great coaches. They know what they had, and what they had simply wasn't good enough.
Schwartz got a lot of blame for the team being undisciplined, but that was largely a narrative. For starters, it was overblown, but once a narrative is built in sports, people who want to feed said narrative will harp on every little thing that could be perceived as proof while overlooking anything that doesn't. The team had some penalty issues, sure, but they weren't that bad. Additionally, let me remind you again about the lack of impact a coach can truly have.
What, exactly, was Schwartz to do with a bunch of adult professionals who know how the game is played? They know the rules, and you can't really bench a guy like, say, Ndamukong Suh, and even if you do, is it going to teach him anything? Sure, there are people who love to mythologize scumbags like Nick Saban for grabbing some 18-year-old kid by the facemask and yelling at his furiously because he committed a holding penalty, because the world is a stupid place, but this is the NFL. That won't fly. And you can't stop a guy like Titus Young from being Titus Young.
That's not to say that there weren't issues with Schwartz. His decision making was often questionable. He didn't seem to have anybody who could keep Matthew Stafford's mechanics in line and his decision making in check. His biggest crime was probably being a doofus who liked to get defensive and talk tough in press conferences. That didn't work for Greg Schiano in Tampa, and it didn't work for Schwartz either.
So now, once again, the Lions will move on. Unlike when they hired Schwartz, the Detroit job looks pretty inviting, especially for an offensive minded coach, so they could get themselves one of the best options out there. We shall see. All we know for now is that Detroit's collapse ended with Jim Schwartz's firing.