“He expected to be a head coach someday, and now it’s here. 0-16 doesn’t faze him. We see a gooey, hideous mess. He simply sees a challenge.”

They put another coach in front of the firing squad today in Allen Park.

Jim Schwartz is the latest one to sign his own walking papers. That’s what you do, you know, when you sign on to be a head coach in pro sports. The clock starts ticking toward your eventual ziggy before the ink dries on your signature.

But that’s just so cynical of me, isn’t it?

First impressions of Schwartz, introduced today as the Lions’ new head coach: not bad. He sounded confident and relaxed. Like this wasn’t his first head coaching job. Like he wasn’t stepping into the doo-doo of 0-16 and a dysfunctional front office. Like he’s done this sort of thing before.

I didn’t get that impression with Schwartz’s predecessor, the beleaguered Rod Marinelli. From the get go, although I liked Marinelli’s military-like persona, Marinelli spoke like he was, well, doing this for the first time. His speech seemed too contrived, too prepared. I didn’t draw the comparison until I heard Schwartz talk, and he was very relaxed and “oh, by the way.”

Of course, Schwartz has been a defensive coordinator for some eight years. You’d expect him to be more polished, frankly. And he sure seems to be.

He even got off a crack.

“If I had known it was going to be this cold here, I would have asked for more money,” he said as the media types laughed.

Hey, if he knew what he was getting himself into, truly knew, he’d ask for a Brinks Truck.

The Lions must have listened to me, for a change.

I implored them to find someone who comes from a winning pedigree, and at the very least from a coordinator’s role. Well, Schwartz would seem to qualify; he learned from Bill Belichick early on, and Jeff Fisher later. He coordinated the Tennessee Titans defense, and did alright. The Titans’ defense was consistently among the best in the NFL. So that’s good.

It remains to be seen, of course, how Schwartz will react once it sinks in: that he doesn’t appear to have as much say-so in personnel matters as many NFL head coaches possess. Also, once it sinks in that tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum, aka Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand, are really the ones in charge. Hopefully, Schwartz won’t become mystified. Check back come draft time.


The Lions’ new head coach, Jim Schwartz, in happier days

But for now, it’s all about Schwartz hiring a staff and beginning to evaluate what he has in Detroit. It’s not much, and he said as much on Monday, when he was propped up before the media as part of his interviewing process. He politely said there were “some holes” in the roster, but was quick to add that many teams have such holes. That wasn’t an easy thing to buy.

When the Lions hired Steve Mariucci, some six years ago already, they created a humongous stage on Ford Field’s turf and Mooch made the long walk from the tunnel, flanked by Matt Millen and Bill Ford Jr. Even Mariucci himself, once he saw what the Lions had created, spectacle-wise, said simply, “Wow.”

Too bad Mooch never lived up to that stage.

This time, Jim Schwartz held a simple, rather brief gathering — in the same spot where Lions coaches speak to the media every week. His demeanor was casual, belying the gravity of the moment. He talked of his growing up as one of nine kids in Baltimore. Not exactly a hard-scrabble life, but certainly not with a silver spoon in his mouth, either. He said his dad would have been disappointed in him if he didn’t take this challenge, because the Schwartzes never shrink from challenges. He talked a little about making his defense all-purpose: able to quell the run and the pass, if need be, based on the opponent. He spoke of becoming big and strong on the football field.

Then, just like that, he was pulled away, after a few innocent questions.

But that’s OK. All intro press conferences of coaches are alike, mostly. But I was still taken by Schwartz’s casualness, and his lack of awe. He expected to be a head coach someday, and now it’s here. 0-16 doesn’t faze him. We see a gooey, hideous mess. He simply sees a challenge.

The grass on the Lions’ side of the fence never looks as brown and as full of manure as we see it from the inside.

So good luck to Mr. Schwartz. For the record, I’m OK with this.

His last name doesn’t begin with M, for one.

It’s a start.

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