From player development, to coaching schemes and ultimately to performance on the field, Schwartz’s day-to-day process, executed with consistency and determination, has impacted every aspect of this football team. As a result, few teams in the NFL have improved as much as the Lions have over the past three seasons.
In Schwartz’s third year, he led the Lions to 10 regular-season wins for the first time since 1995 and clinched a playoff spot for the first since 1999. He became the eighth coach in the franchise’s 78-year history to lead the Detroit to the playoffs. Since 1962, only the 1991 squad won more (12) regular-season games than last year’s Lions.
Supporting Schwartz’s methodical approach is the fact the Lions have improved their record in each of Schwartz’s three seasons, including four-win improvements in each of the past two seasons.
In fact, Schwartz last season became the first Lions head coach since Buddy Parker (1951-53) to improve the team’s record in each of his first three seasons as head coach.
Schwartz, 46, provides a unique blend of coaching and player personnel experience to the Lions head coaching position. Having spent the past 19 seasons in the NFL—16 years as a coach and three in player personnel— Schwartz worked his way up from an entry-level football operations position with the Cleveland Browns in 1993 to being named the Lions Head Coach on January 16, 2009.
He began his NFL coaching career as a defensive assistant and quality control coach, progressed to position coach and then succeeded as a defensive coordinator for nearly a decade despite the constant nature of change in today’s NFL.
Schwartz, now in his fourth season as the Lions head coach, is transforming the team by seeking talent based on what he commonly refers to as “multi-dimensional” players. He firmly believes the team’s ability to adapt in all three phases and to tailor personnel to particular game strategies produces success.
Critical in the progress made thus far is Schwartz’s insistence on building stability and consistency, and that starts with his coaching staff. This consistency impacts the team development and growth due to the player’s extensive knowledge and familiarity of the schemes.
The 2012 season will mark the first time since 2000 the Lions will enter a season for the fourth-straight year with the same head coach along with defensive and offensive coordinators. Additionally, it is the third-straight season, a first since 2000, the Lions are led by the same head coach as well as defensive, offensive and special teams coordinators.
This consistency is nearly unparalleled in the NFL. The Lions will enter the 2012 season as the only team in the NFL led by the same head coach, defensive coordinator and offensive coordinator for the fourth-straight season. They are one of only three teams (New York Giants and Washington Redskins) that will enter the year with the same head coach and all three coordinators for the third-straight-year.
Schwartz understands the importance of his coordinators. Following his hiring in 2009, Schwartz targeted two highly-regarded former head coaches, Gunther Cunningham (assistant head coach/defensive coordinator) and Scott Linehan (offensive coordinator) to assist him in Detroit. Combined, Cunningham and Linehan have 26 years of experience in the NFL as a coordinator or head coach. Since Schwartz added them to his coaching staff, each has implemented philosophies and schemes that not only fit Schwartz’s insistence on adapting to personnel and strategies, but they also have provided sound player development. In 2010, Schwartz also added Danny Crossman, who previously spent five seasons as special team coach for the Carolina Panthers, to the staff to lead the Lions’ special teams units.
A COMEBACK SEASON
In many ways, 2011 was “the comeback season” as Schwartz and the Lions repeatedly won games in which they overcame huge deficits, some in historic fashion. Among the Lions’ 10 wins, three were 17+-point comebacks, marking the first time in NFL history a team won three games after trailing by such a large margin.
Schwartz’s team was also the first in NFL history with four 13+-point comeback wins. In Weeks 3 and 4, the Lions defeated the Minnesota Vikings 26-23 in overtime and the Dallas Cowboys 34-30 to become the first team in history with consecutive 20+-point comeback wins. At Dallas, the 20+-point come-from-behind win tied an NFL record for the largest comeback by a road team.
In fact, the two 20-point comebacks are two of the four biggest regular season comeback wins in team history.
The comeback wins were capped off in Week 15 when the Lions improved their playoff hopes by completing a comeback at Oakland after trailing 27-14 with 7:47 left to play in the fourth quarter.
While the comebacks provided the drama, the highlight of the season undoubtedly was the Lions return to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
The 2011 Lions also produced some of the largest individual game and season point totals in team history.
For only the second time in team history and first since 1952, the Lions scored at least 45 points in three different games. In Week 2, the 48-3 win over Kansas City was the largest margin of victory in team history. The team’s 45 points in a Week 8 win at Denver tied for the most scored by a Lions team on the road in franchise history. With a 49-point outing that produced a victory over the Carolina Panthers in Week 11, the Lions scored seven offensive touchdowns in a game for only the second time in team history.
Though 2011 may be remembered for the comebacks, Schwartz’s Lions also started the season with five consecutive wins, marking the team’s first 5-0 start since 1956 and only the third 5-0 start in franchise history (also in 1934).
The five wins to start 2011 combined with four wins to end 2010 gave the Lions a nine-game regular-season win streak, the longest by the team since 1953-54.
In the record books, Schwartz’s team set a franchise record for points scored (474), total touchdowns (57), total yards (6,337) and net passing yards (4,914). The seven touchdowns (five interceptions, two fumbles) scored via fumble or interception returns tied a franchise record set back in 1937.
Under Schwartz’s guidance, no player represented the comeback more in 2011 than QB Matthew Stafford, who became the first Lions player named the AP Comeback Player of the Year. Injuries forced him off the field for most of 2010, but Stafford led the Lions with the most-historic passing year in team history and one of the finer ones in NFL history. He set team records in completions (421), completion percentage (63.5), passing yards (5,038), touchdowns (41), passer rating (97.2), attempts (663) and 300-yard passing games (8). Among all-time NFL single-season leaders, his 2011 totals are third in attempts, fifth in completions, fifth in passing yards and tied for seventh in passing touchdowns.
Last year, WR Calvin Johnson was named All-Pro, and was selected as a starter in the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive year. Johnson set a new franchise record with 16 receiving touchdowns and had the second-most receiving yards (1,681) in team history. Johnson caught two touchdowns in each of the first four games and became the first player in NFL history to accomplish that feat.
Offensive records were also set by third-year TE Brandon Pettigrew who set team single-season records by a tight end in receptions (83) and receiving yards (777).
The team’s defense continued to improve and become the type of aggressive defense Schwartz envisions. The unit finished third in the League in takeaways (34), first in combined fumble and interception return touchdowns (7), fourth in forced fumbles (17), third in opponent fumble recoveries (13) and fifth in interceptions (21). The Lions five interceptions returned for touchdowns were also a League-high in 2011.
A key to Schwartz’s defensive approach is limiting opportunities, especially on third down. The Lions finished third in the NFL in third down defense (32.7 pct.) and first in defensive efficiency on third- and fourth-and-1 plays (11-of-29, 37.9 pct.).
The defensive line continued to prove its prowess as one of the best in the NFL. Among defensive lines, the Lions 35 sacks ranked fourth in the NFL. DE Cliff Avril led the team with 11 sacks and became just the sixth player since 1982 to register 10+ sacks, while also returning both a fumble and an interception for touchdowns. His seven forced fumbles tied for the League lead in that category.
Combined, the Lions ranked fourth in the NFL with a +11 turnover margin (34 takeaways, 23 giveaways).
Like every other step, 2011 was important for the Lions. However, Schwartz continues to focus on getting better day-by-day.
“It was an important year for us,” said Schwartz. “But I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as a good year. Our expectations are high. It was important getting to the playoffs, something that hadn’t been done for a long time. That was an important step.
“Going to the playoffs is a big step but that is obviously not our end game or something that is the last thing we want to accomplish.”
In 2010, Schwartz led one of the most-improved teams in the NFL. The Lions finished the season as the only NFC team, and one of four in the NFL, to end the season on a four-game winning streak. Included in those four wins was a 7-3 victory over the Super Bowl Champions Green Bay Packers. That four-game win streak was the first for the Lions since 1999 and it marked the eighth time in team history the team ended with at least four-straight wins with the last occurring in 1995.
Detroit joined the New York Giants, San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the only teams in the NFL to improve in all three key offensive and defensive League rankings (total, rushing and passing) compared to 2009.
On offense, the Lions scored 100 more points (third-most improved scoring offense), gained 639 more yards (fourth-most improved offense) and passed for 642 more yards (fifth-most improved) in 2010 than they did in 2009.
As the team progressed in total offense, so did its efficiency in the Red Zone. The Lions were second in the NFL in Red Zone Efficiency converting 29 touchdowns in 45 trips (64.4 percent). With 12 more touchdowns than the previous year, Detroit’s offense was the third-most improved unit in Red Zone touchdowns, and they scored the third-highest improvement with 82 more points in the Red Zone.
Injuries at quarterback forced the team to start Stafford, Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton in at least three games each in 2010. The team’s passers combined for third in the NFL in completions (383) and attempts (633), 12th in gross passing (4,001) and tied for 11th in touchdowns (26). For the first time in team history, three quarterbacks each registered 20-or-more attempts and a passer rating of 90.0 each in two games during the same season. Each quarterback attempted 90 passes on the season and the team combined for a passer rating of 82.0, marking the first time since the 1993 Miami Dolphins that a team had three quarterbacks each attempt 90 passes in a season and finish with an 80.0 passer rating. The quarterback unit also produced 26 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions for a +10 difference, and Detroit became the first team since Philadelphia in 1993 to start three quarterbacks in a season and compile a +10 TD to interception ratio.
Besides the quarterback play, production and improvement was across the board on offense. Johnson was second in the NFL with 12 receiving touchdowns and ninth in receiving yards (1,120). The offensive line allowed only 27 sacks (tied for sixth-lowest in NFL) as the team threw the third-most pass attempts in the League. Their sacks-per-pass ratio (4.09) was the fifth lowest and the third-lowest allowed by a Lions squad since 1960. In just his second season, Brandon Pettigrew set team single-season records for Lions’ tight ends with 71 receptions and 722 receiving yards. Pettigrew also finished third among NFL tight ends in receptions. Pettigrew and TE Tony Scheffler combined for the second-most catches (116) among NFL tight end duos. In the backfield, rookie RB Jahvid Best set a team rookie record with 58 receptions, led the team in rushing and became the first NFL rookie to score five touchdowns in their first two games since Lions RB Billy Sims in 1980.
Defensively, the Lions featured the most-improved unit in all of the NFL—the defensive line. The re-built unit featured starters DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (unrestricted free agent acquisition), DE Cliff Avril, DT Corey Williams (acquired by trade), and rookie DT Ndamukong Suh (selected second overall in 2010 NFL Draft). Suh earned Defensive Rookie of the Year and All-Pro honors, and he was voted a starter in the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Though opponents threw the ball less against the Lions than they did in 2009, the Lions picked up 18 more sacks, which accounts for a 3.28 percent increase from the previous season for the ratio of sacks per pass plays.
Of the Lions’ 44 sacks, 39 were attributed to the defensive line, 23.5 more than the Lions defensive line accounted in 2009—the most improvement among any defensive line unit in the NFL. The line was also the most-improved unit in the League in regards to sack yardage and the group was responsible for 179 more yards of sack yardage.
On his way to capturing numerous post-season accolades, Suh dominated during his rookie season when he led all rookie and all defensive tackles with 10 sacks, and led all defensive tackles with 66 tackles. He also tacked on an interception and returned a fumble for a touchdown. He set the Lions rookie sack record and became only the second rookie defensive tackle in the NFL to record 10 sacks since the sacks became an official stat in 1982.
The team’s defense improved overall as a unit as well. In defending the pass, the defense was the most-improved unit in the NFL allowing 751 less yards (46.9 yards per game) than in 2009. It was also the NFL’s most-improved unit in points allowed giving up 125 points less (7.8 points per game) than the year before. In total yards allowed, it was the fourth-most improved defense yielding 777 yards less than in 2009.
Among the team’s defensive highlights in 2010 occurred during the team’s four home victories. In those four wins, the defense allowed a total of two touchdowns, and it did not yield a touchdown in wins vs. St. Louis (10/10), Green Bay (12/12) and Minnesota (1/2).
The improvement was not only produced on offense and defense, but there was significant progress on the team’s special teams units in virtually every aspect. KR Stefan Logan, who earned Pro Bowl alternate honors, was one of those catalysts as the team’s kick returner. Detroit had the League’s third-best improvement on kickoff returns, gaining 3.5 yards per return more in 2010. Logan finished second in the NFL in total kick return yards (1,810) and was the only player to finish in the Top-5 in both kickoff return average (26.8) and punt return average (12.1). Logan tied a franchise record with a 105-yard kickoff return in the team’s win over St. Louis (10/10).
With respect to the cover units, the Lions were much improved in that area as well. The team’s kickoff return unit allowed 2.7 yards less per kickoff return last year (fourth-best improvement). S John Wendling, who was also named an alternate to the Pro Bowl as a special teamer, led the entire NFL with 24 special teams tackles.
Schwartz’ kicking units also persevered in the second half of the season as the team continued to produce despite missing K Jason Hanson for the most extended time in his 19-year career. Dave Rayner stepped in for Hanson and nailed 13-of-16 field goals (81.3 pct.) in the team’s final eight games, including his final seven attempts. Rayner was critical in the Lions win at Tampa Bay in December as he became the first kicker in team history to hit a field goal on the final play of regulation and then win the game in overtime on a game-winning kick. During the team’s four-game win-streak to end the season, Rayner was 6-of-7 on attempts with his only miss coming on a 55-yard attempt.
Additionally, the across-the-board improvement was shown in the team’s ability to secure the football and generate turnovers. In 2010, Detroit registered 29 takeaways and 25 giveaways for a +4 turnover margin and had a difference of +22 in turnover margin when comparing the past two seasons—the biggest improvement in the NFL.
The Lions were the most improved team in terms of giveaways as well, as they gave the ball away 16 less times than they did in 2009. Among the team’s giveaways, 16 occurred via interception, an improvement of 16 picks from the year before (32 in 2009). They were the second-most improved club in terms of throwing interceptions and were one of only two teams to throw at least 10 interceptions less than the year before. They accomplished that while starting three different quarterbacks.
While the Detroit Lions made the 2010 season notable for the franchise’s overall improvement, Schwartz undersood that the most important element is winning more games. “Nothing is going to detract or take us away from where we’re going as a team,” Schwartz remarked just prior to the team’s four-game winning streak last season. “This team has great things ahead of it. There is no question in any one of our minds that this team has great things ahead.”
Before his tenure in Detroit began in 2009, Schwartz spent 10 seasons with the Tennessee Titans, including eight (2001-08) as defensive coordinator. While with the Titans, he worked under Head Coach Jeff Fisher, one of the most successful coaches in the NFL for 16 seasons. In 2008, Schwartz’s defense guided the Titans to an NFL-best 13-3 record and an AFC South title. The Titans’ defense finished the season ranked in the top 10 in several key defensive categories, including: defensive points allowed (third, 14.2), total yards allowed (seventh, 293.6), rushing yards allowed (sixth, 93.9), passing yards allowed (second, 161.0), third down percentage allowed (6th, 35.0) and sacks (fifth, 44).
Tennessee’s defense was one of only six teams to finish among the top 10 in the league in both rushing yards and passing yards allowed.
As the Titans’ defensive coordinator since 2001, Schwartz’s defensive unit held firm in two major categories that factored significantly in the team’s overall success; rushing defense and third down conversion. From 2001-08, Tennessee ranks fifth in rushing yards allowed per game (103.5) and sixth in third down conversion (36.1). Through 2008, the Titans allowed just nine rushers over 100 yards through 64 home games.
During his tenure as defensive coordinator, the Titans claimed two AFC South titles (2002 and 2008), earned two other AFC Wild Card spots (2003 and 2007), and in four seasons finished with 10 or more wins, including 2002 (11-5), 2003 (12-4), 2007 (10-6) and 2008 (13-3).
In Schwartz’s last two seasons (2007-08) in Tennessee, the Titans claimed 23 victories and their winning percentage of .719 (23-9) was the third-best in the NFL. They are one of only three teams (New England and Indianapolis) with 23-or-more wins. From 2006-08, the Titans record was 31-17 (.646), which was tied for the fourth-best record in the league.
The Titans 2007 defense helped rejuvenate the team and led the team’s return to the playoffs. Among the NFL’s rankings, Schwartz’s defensive unit completed the season among the league best in the following categories: total yards allowed (fifth, 291.6), rushing yards allowed (fifth, 92.4), passing yards allowed (10th 192.2), defensive points allowed (17.3, 7th), first down yards per play allowed (4.34, first), sacks (40, seventh) and takeaways (34, sixth).
The Titans limited three teams in 2007 under 200 total offensive yards, and All-Pro RB LaDainian Tomlinson was held to the lowest rushing total of his career (42) with 20 or more carries in the Titans’ playoff game at San Diego.
Schwartz managed a defense that, much like the rest of Tennessee’s team, was in transition during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. That unit replaced seven regular starters from the 2004 squad with new and, often younger, talent. Schwartz’s defense held their own throughout the process, and one example of that was when Tennessee held the Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts and their high-powered offense in 2006 to a combined 31 points in both games, the lowest tally allowed by a Colts division opponent in the history of the AFC South.
In 2005, the Titans defense was one of the youngest defenses in the NFL with their average years of experience being only 3.5 years. That defense included two starting rookie cornerbacks for only the second time in the team’s 46-year history, and the unit ranked eighth in third down percentage allowed (35.5), ninth in sacks (41) and second in three-and-out drives (31.3 pct.).
For just the second time in franchise history, and first since 1993, Schwartz put together a defense that finished first in the NFL in rushing defense. Finishing in the top 10 in rush defense extended the team’s streak of nine consecutive seasons ranked in the top 10. That nine-year streak was also the longest streak in the league at the time.
As remarkable as it was for the Titans defense to finish first in rushing yards allowed, it was even more remarkable of a feat considering the talented rushers they faced nearly week-in and week-out. That year, the Titans faced eight (total of 10 games) of the NFL’s top 13 rushers who combined for 12,018 yards on the season. The Titans’ defense dominated the league’s leading rusher, Ravens RB Jamal Lewis who rushed for over 2,000 yards that season, in the AFC Wild Card game as the team held Lewis to just 35 yards. It was Lewis’ second-lowest career single-game rushing tally as a starter in the NFL through that year.
Combined with the stellar rushing defense was the strong effort by the defense on third down, once again proving a common theme of Schwartz’s defense. The Titans led the league in third down defense by allowing an opponent conversion percentage of 27.7. It was the lowest in franchise history and the lowest in the NFL since 1998 (Oakland Raiders, 26.3).
Beyond those two categories the Titans defense ranked fourth in the AFC in red-zone defense (43.9 pct.), fifth in the AFC in takeaways (34) and it recorded the most interceptions (21) by a Titans defense since 1995.
In just his second-year as the Titans defensive coordinator, Schwartz’s defense finished in the top 10 as they persevered through a season which they lost All-Pro DE Jevon Kearse to injury and added six new defensive starters. In 2002, the Tennessee defense finished fifth overall in defensive points allowed (282).
Prior to his eight seasons as the Titans defensive coordinator, Schwartz contributed to the Titans defense as the linebackers coach where he also coordinated the team’s third down package in 2000. That year, the Titans led the NFL in opponent third down efficiency by allowing a league-low 30.8 percent. He also was instrumental in the integration of newly-acquired linebacker Randall Godfrey into the Titans defensive scheme, as he set career highs in tackles (169) and interceptions (2).
Schwartz originally joined the Titans in 1999 as defensive assistant/quality control. In his first year with the club, the team claimed the AFC Championship and earned a berth in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Schwartz’s first job in the NFL was with Cleveland Browns from 1993-95, where he worked in the Browns player personnel department, serving as both a college and pro scout. During his time with the Browns, he also assisted Head Coach Bill Belichick and the coaching staff with film breakdown and scouting reports.
After the Browns moved to Baltimore following the 1995 season, Schwartz made the transition from player personnel to coaching, spending three years (1996-98) as a defensive assistant/quality control coach and also coaching the outside linebackers.
COACHING IN THE COLLEGE RANKS
In addition to his pro coaching and scouting experience, Schwartz worked on the college level for four years before moving onto the NFL. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at the University of Maryland, tutoring the Terrapins' linebackers from 1989-90 and then served as graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota (1990-91). He became a position coach in the secondary at North Carolina Central (1991-92) before moving to Colgate (1992) as linebackers coach.
COLLEGIAN ON GRIDIRON
The Baltimore, Md., native was a four-year letter winner as a linebacker at Georgetown University, where he earned a degree in economics. He received Distinguished Economics Graduate honors at Georgetown, and in 1989 he earned numerous honors that include Division III CoSIDA/GTE Academic All-America, All-America and team captain.
OFF THE FIELD
In the community, Schwartz supports the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International and stresses the importance of giving back through entities like Detroit Lions Charities. For the past four years, Schwartz served as chairman of the Detroit Lions Invitational Golf Tournament, and he was the co-chairman for the past two Lions Celebrity Bocce Ball Tournaments. In June 2012, Schwartz and the Lions launched the team’s first-ever Detroit Lions/Kevin VanDam Charity Fishing Tournament presented by Bass Pro Shops that support both Detroit Lions Charities and Kevin VanDam Charities
Schwartz and his wife, Kathy, have twins Christian and Allison along with a younger daughter Maria.
SCHWARTZ’S COACHING BACKGROUND
Detroit Lions........................................................................ 2009-
Head Coach.................................................................... 2009-
Tennessee Titans................................................................. 1999-2008
Defensive Coordinator................................................... 2001-08
Linebackers Coach/Third Down Package...................... 2000
Defensive Assistant....................................................... 1999
Baltimore Ravens................................................................. 1996-98
Defensive Assistant....................................................... 1996-98
Cleveland Browns................................................................. 1993-95
College/Pro Scout.......................................................... 1993-95
Colgate University............................................................... 1992
North Carolina Central........................................................ 1991
Graduate Assistant........................................................ 1990
Graduate Assistant........................................................ 1989
SCHWARTZ'S HEAD COACHING RECORDRegular season
||4th NFC North
||3rd NFC North
||2nd NFC North
||NFC Wild Card