ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford took the blame on Sunday. His coach, Jim Schwartz, did the same on Monday.
Schwartz said the onus is on him for the team’s disappointing 4-10 record, its frustrating six-game losing streak and the latest defeat, a 38-10 embarrassment to the Arizona Cardinals.
“One-hundred percent,” Schwartz said during his weekly news conference. “I appreciate it when our quarterback wants to take blame for it, but ultimately it’s the head coach’s responsibility.
“Head coaches always have a record. Other than playoffs, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen quarterbacks have records. The ultimate responsibility of a team is the head coach. I need to do a better job; 4-10 isn’t good enough.”
Sunday’s brutal performance has put Schwartz on the hot seat when it comes to public opinion. The question is whether Lions ownership feels the same way.
Schwartz, in his fourth season as the Lions’ coach, signed a contract extension before the season. The length of that deal remains a public mystery. Neither Schwartz nor the Lions has confirmed any of the contract details. No one has ever reported the specifics. Schwartz has been adamant they remain private.
Asked if he has had any contact recently with Lions ownership, Schwartz said, “Just about every day.”
“We have very good communication within our organization,” he said. “We’re all trying hard to do the same thing. We’re all trying to do our very best to get a win.
“There’s nothing harder than losing in any kind of professional sport. It’s a difficult situation, but it’s our job as professionals to work to get it right.”
Schwartz did not say much about whether he has gotten reassurances about his future from owner William Clay Ford or vice chairman William Clay Ford, Jr.
“I’m not going to go into any conversations,” Schwartz said. “If we want those public, we’ll do them in a public setting. I think that’s just the nature of this business.”
Schwartz inherited a team that went 0-16 the previous year and improved the product every season until this year.
The Lions were 2-14 in 2009, his first year, then 6-10 in 2010 before breaking through for a 10-win, playoff season a year ago. They’ve taken a step back this season, dropping Schwartz’s overall record to 22-41, including a playoff loss.
“We have been sidetracked this year,” Schwartz said. “We have gone off the rails a little bit. Got to get back on track.
“We still have a lot of confidence in what we do and where we’re going to go,” Schwartz added. “We need to do a better job. We haven’t done a good enough job this year.”
The Lions finish the season with home games against Atlanta (12-2) and Chicago (8-6).
The best they can do at this point is to play the role of spoiler, possibly keeping the Falcons from earning home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and then knocking the Bears out of playoff contention.
“There’s no salvaging a season,” Schwartz said. “We can salvage each week.”
While the Lions have undeniably struggled in recent week, Schwartz defended his players’ work ethic.
“It’s not a matter of effort,” he said. “Our players’ effort has been good.”
Schwartz doesn’t think talent is a problem, either.
“I’m never going to get up here and say that talent’s an issue,” he said. “I have confidence in our players. If we put them on the field, we have confidence in them. You might not always have a full complement of players (because of injuries, etc.), but it’s our job as coaches to put those guys in position, try to find the best combination of guys and try to find a way to get it done.”
Schwartz said his focus remains solely on winning Saturday night against the Falcons, and not looking ahead to the off-season or next year.
“You don’t have time to think about that,” he said. “I know fans do. I know you guys (the media) do. But believe me, we’re not thinking to next year. We’re thinking everything we can do to win this game.”
Schwartz described Arizona’s approach to covering receiver Calvin Johnson as the “equivalent of a box-and-one in basketball.”
While Johnson still made 10 catches for 121 yards, no one else had more than Tony Scheffler’s three receptions for 36 yards.
The Lions have lost their three best receivers behind Johnson for the season.
“We severely lacked other playmakers on the field,” Schwartz said.
… Schwartz, on Stafford taking the blame after throwing three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns: “That’s what the quarterbacks do. He is accountable. Quarterbacks have days like that. Matt cares an awful lot. Winning means an awful lot. This losing streak has hurt an awful lot. Good quarterbacks are always going to put it on their shoulders. Obviously, turnovers had a lot to do with this game.”
… Cornerback Jacob Lacey could miss the final two games because of a knee injury, Schwartz said.