Fired coach Jim Schwartz is pointing to the Detroit Lions’ salary-cap woes as part of the reason for the team’s second-half collapses.
"They’re top-heavy on their cap, and rightfully so," Schwartz said during an interview with radio station 104.5 FM in Nashville, Tenn. "Guys like Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford, Ndamukong Suh — makes it difficult to have a lot of depth. And when you get those injuries, which everybody does, it’s going to be a difficult row to hoe when you get to the second half of the season.
"We didn’t do a good enough job in that second half of the season."
This past season, the Lions appeared to be headed to a division title but lost six of their last seven games, including the final four, to miss the playoffs.
In his last three years as the Lions’ coach, Schwartz’s teams were 15-9 in the first half of the season and 6-18 in the second half.
The last two seasons were total collapses at the end. The Lions were winless in the second half in 2012 and 2-6 in 2013.
No NFL team has more money devoted to its top three players than the Lions. Suh ($22.4 million), Stafford ($15.8 million) and Johnson ($13 million) account for more than $51 million against the cap for next season. It’s possible that total could be reduced if a contract extension is worked out with Suh.
This salary-cap situation is the reason why some analysts believe the Lions should consider not re-signing Suh, who can become a free agent after next season.
Schwartz, who was the Tennessee Titans’ defensive coordinator before taking the Lions’ job, also made reference during the interview with the Nashville station to the enormous baggage that is inherited by players and coaches in Detroit because of the franchise’s wretched past.
The Lions have never played in a Super Bowl and have one playoff victory since winning the NFL championship in 1957.
"It seemed like we were always hanged for the sins of previous teams," Schwartz said. "There was a road losing streak or a division losing streak, and we were holding team and guys accountable for stuff that happened 10 years before.
"It’s part of the conversation in this league, but it’s not always fair to the current players, to the current coaches."
Schwartz finished with a 29-52 record during five years in Detroit, including one playoff loss. He was fired a day after the season and replaced by Jim Caldwell.