November 15, 2010 at 1:00 am

Terry Foster

It's time to question Jim Schwartz's ability as head coach

Sunday was the first game in Calvin Johnson's NFL career that he reached double figures in receptions. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

Lions coach Jim Schwartz looks the part.

He looks and sounds like a legitimate NFL coach. I always thought the Lions got the right guy when they hired him to replace Rod Marinelli. However, the NFL is first and foremost a results-based league, and now you must wonder if the Lions have the right man for the job.

The Lions have a better collection of talent today than they did three or four years ago. But after Sunday's 14-12 loss to the Bills they are just 4-21 under Schwartz. That's winning at a 16-percent rate.

Marty Mornhinweg's winning percentage was .156 (5-27).

This does not mean Schwartz should be on the hot seat, worrying about his job. But it makes you question what this guy is thinking sometimes.

The Lions still have not fully emerged from the sewage of Matt Millen's leadership. But there is no excuse for these anemic numbers. There is nothing good about Schwartz's winning percentage of 16.

Here is my view of Schwartz. The Lions have a coach who is organized and a good leader, but lacks game-day savvy. Like Millen he is learning on the job. That is why you see curious decisions and poor clock management.

He bungled the end of the Jets game when quarterback Drew Stanton passed when the Lions needed to drain the clock. And until recently, Schwartz and his assistants couldn't figure out how to get the ball to Calvin Johnson.

On Sunday, Schwartz tried to establish the Lions' weak run game against the worst run defense in the league. Quarterback Shaun Hill threw 50 times against Buffalo, but the Lions ran the ball on seven of their first nine first-down plays. The Lions finally gave up running the ball and let Hill be a gunslinger. But it was too late.

The main problem is that Schwartz coaches an undisciplined and mentally unfocused team. That's why the penalties keep piling up. The Lions and Raiders are running neck and neck for most penalties in the NFL. The Raiders have 91 and the Lions have 88.

The Lions might be better physically this season, but mentally they melt down when they're in positions to win. And many of their penalties are not effort penalties. They are mental penalties.

So when can Lions fans start to question Schwartz's ability as a head coach?

I think now is a good time.

There is one silver lining. I believe the Lions would at least be 4-5 if Matthew Stafford had been healthy and played every game. Of course, the critical question is: How do you keep the guy healthy?

Sad tale

Records and winning percentages of the last five Lions coaches:

Jim Schwartz, 4-21 (.160)

Rod Marinelli, 10-38 (.208)

Dick Jauron, 1-4 (.200)

Steve Mariucci, 15-28 (.349)

Marty Mornhinweg, 5-27 (.156)

terry.foster@detnews.com

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