SBD/January 2, 2014/Franchises

Lions On $12M Hook For Firing Schwartz As Team Looking To Change Culture With Next Coach

Mayhew (l) said the Lions will consider a coach's ability to change the team's culture
Fired Lions coach Jim Schwartz had two years and a reported $12M left on his contract, but team President Tom Lewand said that this was "never discussed" by the Ford family, which owns the Lions, in "making the decision to fire him," according to Chris McCosky of the DETROIT NEWS. Lewand said, “Our ownership’s discussion begins and ends with what it takes to bring a consistently winning football team to the city of Detroit. They started almost every conversation I had with them with the fans deserving better." GM Martin Mayhew said the Lions in finding a new coach can "take into account a coach's ability to change our culture a little bit. It has to be something bigger than just scheme that somebody's bringing to our table" (DETROIT NEWS, 12/31). In Detroit, Jeff Seidel wrote that is the "best statement that has come out of the Lions' headquarters in months." But this is "only the second search for Mayhew and Lewand, and it's a different search than the last time" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/31).  

NOT A COMPLETE LOSS: In Detroit, Seidel wrote, "To be fair, Schwartz was not a failure in Detroit. ... But make no mistake, this organization is still stuck in mediocrity." The $12M figure "sounds like a lot of money until you remember" that Owner William Clay Ford Sr. "has a net worth that is north of $1 billion, give or take several hundred million." The Ford family can "find $12 million in their Whoops Jar. So don't make much of the cost." Seidel: "Quick note to all the Lions fans who cling to the ridiculous hope that Ford will sell the team: You are nuts. There are two truths about life: You can’t pick your parents; and you can’t pick your NFL owner. So get over it" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/31). In Detroit, Mitch Albom noted Lewand and Mayhew "both emphasized how seriously 'the Ford family' -- their bosses -- wanted things to alter." However, "no member of the Ford family was present" Monday at the Schwartz news conference or "issued a comment." When one reporter "asked whether 'the Ford family' meant William Clay Ford Sr. or [Vice Chair] Bill Ford Jr., he was told by Lewand that 'Mr. Ford has always been involved in the process … beyond that there is no need to specify.'” Albom: "What is this, the Matrix? Which Mr. Ford? Are all Fords interchangeable, like special agents in dark suits? Who is in charge of this team? If you can’t get that simple answer, you wonder how clear the hiring of a new coach is going to be" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/31).

MOVING ON: In Detroit, Terry Foster wrote, "Give the organization some credit for shedding its history of firing a guy too late" (DETROIT NEWS, 12/31). Also in Detroit, Bob Wojnowski wrote Lewand and Mayhew "made the right move in firing Schwartz and now must make a bigger move to prove their point." There is a "reason [Mayhew is] still here and the Fords again resisted the urge to toss everything out." Wojnowski: "Yes, they generally err on the side of safe, which certainly has contributed to the franchise’s numbing 56-year title drought." That is why the "pressure is enormous on Mayhew and Lewand, because this hire is far more important than the Schwartz hire in 2009, when the Lions were coming off that 0-16 gem." This "actually is an attractive job now" with WR Calvin Johnson, DT Ndamukong Suh and a "potential -- still only a potential -- franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford." There also is a "top-10 draft pick and an owner willing to eat" $12M of Schwartz’ contract. If Bill Ford Jr. gradually is "assuming control from his father, that’s a decent sign" (DETROIT NEWS, 12/31). Mayhew said the Lions "don't want to start over." In Detroit, John Niyo wrote, "Of course they don’t, since doing that honestly would require a clean sweep in Allen Park, the front office included." But "clearly there’s enough talent here to attract some quality candidates." If the Fords were willing to pay nearly $12M to "send Schwartz packing ... they’re prepared to pay a premium to replace him" (DETROIT NEWS, 12/31).
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