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02-21-2009, 11:13 AM #1
Schwartz a "rock star" at combines...
Found this rather amusing, and informative. I'm warming up to the decision to hire him...
INDIANAPOLIS – The soon-to-be-announced coach of the Detroit Lions had just arrived in Motown on a Thursday night in the middle of January, and now Jim Schwartz was checking into the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn, mindful that his profile was about to be raised significantly.
Someone suggested to Schwartz that he check in under an alias, and the former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator and major music junkie nodded his head in approval.
Schwartz soaked up the media attention on Thursday.
(Michael Conroy/AP Photo)
“How about Ted Nugent?” Schwartz said, paying homage to the Motor City Madman.
Uh, that might kind of attract attention.
Finally, Schwartz settled on a slightly less obvious Detroit rocker – White Stripes guitarist extraordinaire Jack White, who happened to have lived in Schwartz’s neighborhood in suburban Nashville.
“It was pretty amusing,” Schwartz recalled Thursday from the NFL scouting combine, where the man charged with turning around the team that just suffered through the worst season in NFL history was the day’s most conspicuous media darling. “At a hotel like that, they’re very formal and attentive, so any time I picked up the phone or saw an employee, it was, ‘How can we help you, Mr. White?’ ”
Like the ripping axe-master whose identity he borrowed, Schwartz is not a subtle person. Smart, smooth and supremely confident, Schwartz, 42, is attacking his first head-coaching job like a man plugged into an amplifier. As White once sang, If you can hear a piano fall, you can hear me coming down the hall.
There’s no guarantee he’ll be successful, but Schwartz has the precise personality suited for a seemingly daunting job: turning around a team that went 0-16 in 2008.
His first major move will likely be his most scrutinized. The Lions, as draftniks everywhere know, are currently on the clock. Not only does Detroit hold the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft, but it also owns additional selections in the first and third rounds (from the Cowboys, thanks to the Roy Williams trade).
The team is also poised to make some noise in free agency – perhaps even to pursue star defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, whom Schwartz helped turn from a troubled underachiever to a dominant All-Pro in Tennessee.
All of this has generated some serious buzz around a hapless franchise and made the erstwhile Mr. White a very popular man at the combine.
“I look at this as a really good opportunity,” Schwartz said. “When I was interviewing one of the guys I ended up hiring as an assistant coach, he put it this way: ‘We’ve got the first overall pick, and five of the first 82. We’ve got money to spend in free agency. Hey, let’s take advantage of being crappy.’ Only he didn’t exactly say ‘crappy.’
“I agree. We need to capitalize on this opportunity.”
It was a typically entertaining and candid response from Schwartz, a coach who honed his media-friendly persona under the Titans’ ultraprofessional Jeff Fisher. That’s one reason he was a man in demand on Thursday, packing the house for a lengthy press conference at Lucas Oil Stadium which had to be cut off by an NFL public-relations official. While new Colts coach Jim Caldwell followed Schwartz at the podium, commanding an audience about a fifth of the size, Schwartz relocated to a wall outside the media room and continued to hold court with more than 30 reporters for another half-hour.
After a radio interview and a couple of other side chats, Schwartz sat down with me and kept the good quotes coming.
“I’m the new flavor,” he said, rolling his eyes in mock exasperation. “You know how that goes – everybody wants to sample the new flavor.”
By radiating a self-assured enthusiasm, Schwartz has created a sense of optimism among an NFL fan base that has enjoyed far too few ebullient moments over the past 75 years. As improbable as a quick Lions turnaround might seem on a logical level, crazy swings are possible in the 21st-century NFL, as evidenced by the Miami Dolphins’ jump from 1-15 in 2007 to an AFC East title in ’08.
Throw in the improbably instant proficiency of a pair of first-round draft picks thrust into starting quarterback roles last season as rookies – Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco – and it’s easy to fantasize that Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez or Josh Freeman could step right in and lead the Lions to respectability.
Schwartz, while intent on building a versatile, consistent winner, does not reside on Fantasy Island.
“I think there’s a tendency to force it when you’ve got the No. 1 pick and you’re evaluating quarterbacks, and we’ve got to guard against that,” he says. “As far as a turnaround, you’ve just got to play your hand. Everyone talks about the Dolphins last year, but they had two Pro Bowl running backs [Brown and Ricky Williams] coming back off IR and they got a quarterback [Chad Pennington] halfway through training camp. What’s the chance we’ll be able to replicate that model?”
Still, you can be sure Schwartz understands how landing a franchise quarterback can impact the psyche of an entire region. Right now, Daunte Culpepper is the presumed front-runner for the starting job, with fellow holdovers Jon (Ten Victories Or Bust) Kitna and Dan (I’ve Been Out of the End Zone For 15 Steps) Orlovsky also in the mix.
That sound you hear is an entire state groaning in unison. And Schwartz’s ability to enunciate the most glaring source of angst for Lions fans endeared him to the Michigan masses even before he was offered the job.
During a long day of interviewing at the team’s facility in Allen Park, two days after the Titans’ divisional-round playoff loss to the Ravens, Schwartz was told by team officials that he’d be meeting with the local media. The way Schwartz handled himself at that press conference undoubtedly helped convince team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew (who repeated the exercise with Todd Bowles, the far more understated Dolphins secondary coach who was also a finalist for the position) that Schwartz could handle the public part of the job.
Schwartz’s signature line from the press conference came after he was asked what he’d do with the No. 1 pick in the draft were he to get the gig.
Schwartz was held in high regard for his work with the Titans.
(Kirby Lee/US Presswire)
“Obviously, there’s a lot of needs,” he answered. “I think, obviously, the most important position on the team is quarterback. It’s probably time to find a replacement for Bobby Layne.”
The historical reference – Layne quarterbacked the Lions during their glory days in the ’50s; they’ve won one playoff game since, with one Pro Bowl appearance by a quarterback – drew big laughs.
“I thought it was important for the people in Detroit, for fans of the Lions, to know I knew something about their history,” Schwartz says now. “In general, even though I had almost no prep, I was at ease in that situation because of the way Jeff has prepared me. He allows his assistant coaches to talk to the media, and encourages it, and as a result I’m very comfortable in that situation.
“It was a really smart thing for Martin and Tom to do – to put a guy in front of the media with no preparation. That was part of the interview process, and that makes sense because it’s a big part of the job. So I was selling myself, but hey, that’s what I do every day during the season. I sell myself to 53 millionaires.”
The fans won’t really buy in, of course, until they see some serious progress in the on-field product. Experiencing victory for the first time since Dec. 23, 2007 (a 25-20 triumph over the Chiefs) would be a nice start.
And if the Lions become a full-fledged contender? At that point, Schwartz might as well check into the Ritz under his own name, for he’ll be the rock star.
TAKE IT TO THE ATM“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV84
02-21-2009, 03:19 PM #2
Good article, I would take the extra http:// out of the link though!I'm Mikeshoe21, and I approve of this post.
2012 Adopted Tiger: Justin Verlander
02-21-2009, 11:43 PM #3
I always had a feeling that Schwartz was a really smart Xs and Os coach, but reading this quote:
"That was part of the interview process, and that makes sense because it’s a big part of the job. So I was selling myself, but hey, that’s what I do every day during the season. I sell myself to 53 millionaires.”This is terrible. He should also quit his day job.
- Zimm re: Rick Moranis' country album
Rod Marinelli said great things when he was hired too."Thank you. My thoughts exactly. I don't even care if it makes me look like sour grapes. Screw them and their fans who are reading this and gloating." -- GoGoCrede on Twins fans.
02-24-2009, 07:55 AM #5
02-24-2009, 04:46 PM #6
pound the rockThis is terrible. He should also quit his day job.
- Zimm re: Rick Moranis' country album
02-24-2009, 05:16 PM #7