Without a playoff berth in a season seemingly tailor-made for the Lions, it was evident changes were coming to Detroit. The biggest changes, obviously, was the dismissal of head coach Jim Schwartz after five seasons with the team that netted just one postseason appearance and no playoff victories.
Schwartz was highly criticized for his team’s lack of discipline. In 2013, the Lions averaged the ninth most penalties in the league per game, committing 6.9 fouls per game. In addition, the Lions never ranked in the bottom half of the league in penalties per game during Schwartz’s five seasons with the team. In essence, the Lions lacked discipline, and they weren’t getting any better.
At 47 years of age, Schwartz will almost certainly be hoping to land another head coaching job in the NFL, but he’ll have to prove that he can coach a solid group of players before another owner is willing to give him the reigns of a franchise.
Now that Schwartz has been hired by the Buffalo Bills to replace defensive coordinator Mike Pettine who left to become the Browns’ head coach, he’ll have a golden opportunity to help push the Bills’ 10th ranked defense to the next level. If his unit can propel the Bills back to the playoffs for the first time since Wade Phillips’ group was losing to the Titans in the Music City Miracle back in 1999.
The situation in Buffalo poses a particularly interesting challenge to a defensive coordinator. The Bills are still going through growing pains fitting E.J. Manuel into an NFL offense. He’s a young, talented player, but he was also thrown into the deep end of the pool with little more than raw talent.
In his rookie season, Manuel played in just ten games, and he accounted for eleven touchdowns to nine interceptions. This means the Bills aren’t scoring much when he’s on the field, and they’re putting their defense into a tough position about as often as they’re scoring touchdowns.
There’s no doubt the Bills are pointed in the right general direction. After all, it really can’t get much worse for Buffalo, but that lack of offensive production puts most of the pressure of winning on their defense. Schwartz inherits a group that defend the pass well, but their run defense leaves much to be desired.
In a scenario where Schwartz uses this opportunity in Buffalo to catapult himself back into a head coaching position, two things absolutely must happen. The Bills’ defense has to prop the entire team up, probably to the point of playing meaningful games late in the season, and his group has to play disciplined football. Any sloppiness shown by that group will only reinforce the belief that Schwartz can’t keep his players in line.
Heading to Buffalo is a risky move for Schwartz. On one hand, it’s a golden opportunity to show off his value. There are many folks still out there that love Schwartz’s fiery personality, and there’s no denying the Lions played with something to prove in his time in Detroit. On the other hand, the Bills have had just one winning season, a 9-7 run in 2004, since they last made the playoffs in 1999. If Buffalo continues to flounder about in the AFC East, there won’t be a head coaching job waiting on Schwartz anytime soon.
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