The Detroit Lions began the process of moving on from the Jim Schwartz era almost immediately after letting him go Monday morning.
Lions team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew said in an afternoon press conference that they have a very specific profile in place of what they want in their next head coach and the process of finding him has already begun.
"It's bigger than X's and O's," Mayhew said. "It's bigger than scheme. It's bigger than that. This guy has to be a leader and lead our team."
Both Lewand and Mayhew credited Schwartz with taking over a terrible situation in 2009 coming off an 0-16 season and turning it into a contender. But in the end, neither the Ford Family, Lewand or Mayhew felt Schwartz was the right coach to lead the organization over the next hump.
"We weren’t able to make that play, to get over that hump, to find a way to win some of those games down the stretch," Mayhew said.
"It is a mentality. It has to be a belief that no matter what’s happening, you have an opportunity to win. You can’t put yourself in a situation where you get a fatalistic attitude or you get the belief that you can’t get over the hump, so to speak. I think that’s something that will need to be addressed in terms of the coach of our football team."
The truth is the Lions are in a different position than they were in 2009 and the profile of what they are looking for is quite different as well.
"I think this will be one of the most, if not the single most, attractive head coaching opportunity in the National Football League for a lot of different reasons," Lewand said. "That starts with our ownership. I think it also continues with a lot of the talented people that we have in this organization. Not just in the locker room, although there are many of those. The expectation is to bring a consistency winning football team to the city of Detroit immediately."
In fact, Lewand said the team started receiving calls from agents and coaching candidates almost immediately after the news broke of Schwartz’s termination.
"I think going through a thorough process is extremely important," he said. "That doesn’t necessarily mean that has to be a long process, but it has to be a thorough process. We will go through a process of interviews and research to make sure that we find the best fit for the Detroit Lions."
The Lions will utilize a panel set up by the league office to advise teams who are on coaching searches of prospective candidates.
When it comes to the specifics of the coaching search, Mayhew said it isn’t a must that prospective candidates have head coaching experience, but that it would "certainly be a factor."
"For me, it’s hard to put it on one thing," Mayhew said of the most important criteria for the new coach. "It has to be the right fit and that’s a lot of different things, but we’ll talk about a lot of different criteria in terms of finding the right person.
"Obviously, experience as a head coach is important. It doesn’t matter what side of the ball it is. I also think we can to 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."
Reading between the lines a little bit, it seems the Lions are at least initially interested in candidates with head coaching experience, who have created a winning culture in the past. San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt could certainly be very attractive. He changed the culture in Arizona and took that franchise to a Super Bowl.
Lewand was asked toward the end of the press conference what his message to the fans is.
"The bottom-line message is, from our ownership on down, we are unwaveringly committed to bringing a consistently winning football team to this town," he said. "Immediately."