Hall of Fame Head Coach
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Staying the course despite losing has been the key
Another good article from Lions.com today.
The fact that Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz stayed the course the last three years and stuck with the game plan is the biggest reason the Lions are in the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Mayhew had an idea of how he wanted to build a team into Schwartz’s scheme and the two never waivered from the plan, even when they won just two games the first year and started 2-10 the next.
“Probably the most difficult thing to do in the NFL is to stick to a plan when you’re not winning,” Schwartz said Monday. “Too many times, people haven’t accomplished what they want to accomplish because they’ve turned back at the first sign of storm. Or the first cloud’s on the horizon; ‘Hey, let’s turn around and go back.’"
Schwartz said the reason he went headlong into the storm was he knew how the team stacked up with some of the league’s best and how close he thought they were to turning the corner.
“There’s a lot of fool’s gold in the NFL,” Schwartz said. “There are a lot of teams that win and they’re really not on the right track. Sometimes you put too much into just getting the win; too much into, ‘hey we’re on the right track’ when really you’ve misevaluated your team or you’re really not on the right track.
“You happen to win a couple games, but you end up setting yourself back that way, too.”
Schwartz admitted Monday that it was easier for him and Mayhew to stay the course through all the losing the first two years because they both knew they had a good crop of young players to build around and had found their quarterback of the future in Matthew Stafford.
“We had a good group of good, young players, we’d put some good veterans around them and we had a lot of confidence in the quarterback.” he said. “ It was hard for other people to have confidence in the quarterback because they didn’t see him enough. We saw him every day.
"We knew how he stacked up against other guys, we knew what he could do for this team, we knew that his injuries weren’t going to be injuries that set him back in the future and it was that confidence in knowing that you have ‘that guy’ that probably had as much to do with that as anything else.”
Mayhew and Schwartz’s philosophy has been a 180-degree difference from previous regimes.
Time and time again the Lions went from one extreme to the other in both player and coaching decisions before Mayhew and Schwartz.
Steve Mariucci would bring in talented players, who were successful in other places, but didn’t fit the scheme or what they were trying to do.
Then Rod Marinelli had to have his Tampa Two players who fit the scheme, but weren't talented enough to run it without the perennial Pro Bowlers that made it successful.
There was no consistency or plan.
“Probably the best things we’ve done is we’ve married the player and how he’s going to be used,” Schwartz said. “We haven’t acquired any players just saying, ‘Hey, he’s a good player.’ There are a lot of good players, but exactly how he’s going to be used I think is very, very important.
“I think that the other thing: Martin’s famous for saying that the draft isn’t the finish line. Our roster is always a work in progress and I think Martin and his whole staff have done an outstanding job of continuing to build. There’s never a finish line. When the last game’s played, the season’s over, but roster-wise, your season’s never over.”