Jim Schwartz says last season has strengthened his resolve to get back on track

Posted Mar 20, 2013

After an unexpected 4-12 season, Jim Schwartz is focused on getting the Detroit Lions back into contention

PHOENIX– Jim Schwartz has had almost three full months to chew on a season that was as disappointing for the Lions as any in recent years.

The bitter taste of a 4-12 record and a season-ending eight-game losing streak hasn't gone away for the Lions' head coach.

"It's still not; it's still not," Schwartz said Wednesday, repeating for emphasis as he spoke to reporters at the NFL's annual meetings. "You carry everything with you."

Any lingering sour feeling is understandable. The Lions plunged from a team on the rise in 2011 with a 10-6 record and a playoff berth to one that lost close games and was perceived as undisciplined.

For Schwartz, it hasn't changed the basic mode of operation. If anything, last season's record has strengthened the resolve to get back on the winning track.

"It makes you more determined," Schwartz said. "It doesn't affect the way you go about your work day. There's a consistency to the way we approach things. It's not like that last year we came off the playoffs and said. 'OK, let's cut it down this offseason. Let's go get a lot of three-day weekends.'"

Schwartz talked about how losing was felt by his entire family. Schwartz is beginning his fifth season in Detroit, and his kids are full-fledged Lions fans after the move from Nashville, where Schwartz had been defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans.

"My kids are just now starting to talk to me," Schwartz said. "My son's got a lot of Lions sweat shirts and hats. They weren't happy with four and 12, either. Nobody was. We all want to get that taste out of our mouths."

Schwartz wasn't really joking about the family reacting to losing.

"He's mad," Schwartz said. "It's not because he's my son. He's a big Lions fan. If I worked down at the Rouge (plant), he'd still have all that same stuff."

General Manager Martin Mayhew was asked Monday if the organization has a sense of urgency.

"If you win four games, you better have an urgency," Mayhew said.

Schwartz does not disagree with that.

"When you're 12-4 you have a sense of urgency," he said. "That's just life in this business. There's nobody that doesn't feel that, regardless of whether you have success. This league is unique that way. There's only 16 games. There's an urgency in everything we do."

The Lions have had a much more active offseason in acquiring new players than they did last year. Because of salary cap restrictions, the only free agent they signed was Jacob Lacey, a part-time starter at cornerback.

The Lions have added three starters this year – running back Reggie Bush, defensive end Jason Jones and safety Glover Quin. They also re-signed three key defensive starters – safety Louis Delmas, cornerback Chris Houston and linebacker DeAndre Levy.

Following are Schwartz's comments:

Reggie Bush: He doesn't have to be a high-volume workhorse to help the offense, but Schwartz won't have a strict formula on how many times he'll get the ball either on carries or receptions.

"It's going to be the quality of his touches, not the number of his touches," Schwartz said. "He's not a guy that needs to run the ball 20 times against bad boxes and go grind it out. He's a guy who needs to make big plays for our offense.

"There'll be opportunities to do that. Even with Calvin (Johnson), we don't go in with a pitch count. It'll be the same thing with Reggie."

Last season at Miami, Schwartz said Bush ran a lot of times against defenses that had eight men stacked in the box. The Lions saw that very seldom last year. They faced defenses stacked to stop Johnson because there was no big-play threat in the backfield.

"We're going to get the ball to him on our terms, on his terms, not on the defense's terms," Schwartz said. "Calvin Johnson provides a lot of opportunities for a running back."

Jason Jones: He will start at left defensive end, where Cliff Avril started the last four seasons under Schwartz. Avril signed with Seattle as a free agent. Their playing styles are different. Avril was a speed rusher who lined up wide. At 275 pounds and with 37-inch arms, Jones is a more powerful player.

"Jason Jones is a different kind of player than Cliff Avril," Schwartz said. "Cliff was an edge, speed guy. Jason is more of an inside, affect the quarterback. I don't know how he buys shirts. He might have the top three longest arms in the last five or six years at the Combine.

"Even if he's blocked he can still affect the passer. It also allows us to keep Nick (Fairley) and Ndamukong (Suh) involved more. Less things open up.

"We put Cliff in what we thought was the best position to help us. It didn't necessarily put Nick Fairley or Ndamukong Suh in the best position. That's coaching. "

Schwartz spoke about a number of players Wednesday, including Bush, Jones, Nick Fairley and Matthew Stafford.

Nick Fairley
DT Nick Fairley

Nick Fairley: He has played 23 of 32 games in two seasons with the Lions after being drafted 13th overall in 2011. He got a late start as a rookie because of a broken foot. Last year, he went on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

Fairley has explosive talent. He had 5.5 sacks last year. But he hasn't been available enough to maximize his talent, and there have been issues about his conditioning.

The pairing of Fairley and Suh at defensive tackle has the potential to be one of the NFL's best, with Fairley's quickness and Suh's power making it hard for teams to block the middle.

"Nick needs to be on the field for us.," Schwartz said. "We're a better defense when Nick's on the field for us. He made big plays for us last year but finished the year on IR. We need to get him to the point where he can play 16 games for us the way that he plays eight for us every year.

"He's an impact player. You saw all the reasons we drafted him."

Matthew Stafford: He has stayed in town and works out regularly at the team's facility in Allen Park.

"It shows his commitment to the City of Detroit more than anything else," Schwartz said. "He's making Detroit this home. He's not scared away by the weather. He not scared away by anything else. That's a strong statement from the starting quarterback, from the franchise quarterback.

"As experienced now as he's become and as mature as he is, he's still young. (Stafford turned 25 last month). It's just amazing. He's always been a worker. If you went back to high school, I'm sure he was doing the same things in the offseason. It's just his personality.

"The strongest statement there is that he's committed to the City of Detroit."