The Detroit Lions have accomplished one more goal this offseason, keeping another cog in the franchise’s turnaround.
Detroit and coach Jim Schwartz, who had one year left on his deal, agreed on a contract extension. Lions spokesman Bill Keenist said Friday night that the team won’t disclose details of the new contract.
Schwartz and the team consistently refused to comment on negotiations this offseason.
There was no doubt, however, that the Lions didn’t want to let him get away.
He helped Detroit reach the playoffs last season just three years after inheriting a team coming off the NFL’s first 0-16 year.
The Lions gave the former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator his first chance to be a head coach in 2009. Schwartz won two games in his first year, six the next and 10 last season. He led the franchise to double digits in wins for the first time since 1995 and into the postseason for the first time since the 1999 season.
All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson had his contract extended this offseason by Detroit, which also retained standout defensive Cliff Avril, linebacker Stephen Tulloch and offensive tackle Jeff Backus. Cornerback Eric Wright, who left as a free agent to sign with Tampa Bay, is the only significant player missing from last season’s team.
The Lions, however, have marred their offseason with arrests that have led to at least one suspension. Running back Mikel Leshoure will miss the first two games without pay and will have to give up two more game checks for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley will likely also be suspended because he was arrested twice in two months.
On the field, the Lions have found a leader they’ve been looking for a long time.
Detroit hasn’t had a coach lead the team for more than four seasons since Fontes won 138 games from 1988-96.
Bobby Ross, Gary Moeller, Marty Mornhinweg, Steve Mariucci, Dick Jauron – on an interim basis – and Rod Marinelli all had a chance to lead a franchise with only one playoff victory since winning the 1957 NFL title before Schwartz was hired.
”I don’t shy away from a challenge,” Schwartz said in 2009 following a second interview with the Lions.
Schwartz, who is from Baltimore, played linebacker at Georgetown and graduated with a degree in economics.
He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Maryland in 1989, later had the same position at Minnesota and went on to become a secondary coach for North Carolina Central and linebackers coach at Colgate. Schwarz was a college and pro scout for the Cleveland Browns and spent three years on the Baltimore Ravens’ staff before moving on and up with the Titans.
The Lions have taken on the personality of their demonstrative coach, who had to be separated from San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh after a loss last year.
”Coach is fiery. We love that about him,” Detroit offensive lineman Rob Sims said last season. ”I think he’s a great leader in regards to that, just staying positive, being emotional. Some guys, they try to just hide.”