December 23, 2013 at 1:00 am

Terry Foster

Firing Jim Schwartz is no solution if Lions can't hire suitable replacement

Lions coach Jim Schwartz runs off the field after Sunday's 23-20 overtime loss to the Giants at Ford Field in Detroit. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

Detroit — Moments after the Lions’ playoff hopes were dashed by a Josh Brown 45-yard field goal the name “Lovie Smith” was thrown around at the downtown Buffalo Wild Wings.

People are angry and frustrated and their angst was directed at head coach Jim Schwartz immediately after the Lions’ 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Giants Sunday at Ford Field. I wanted to get away from the press box and meet with Lions fans Sunday. That is where I met Troy Osentoski of Flat Rock, who is frustrated with the Lions but still wore his Matthew Stafford jersey and vows to continue to cheer on his home team.

The Lions are done and buried after a 1-5 stumble that leaves them at 7-8 and out of the playoff race. Debates centered on two uncomfortable situations: Should the Lions part ways with head coach Jim Schwartz or Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford?

They are tough questions because both have failed the Lions down the stretch. Stafford turns the ball over too often and Schwartz is not a second-half coach.

“I think they should fire Schwartz,” Osentoski said. “If you get a five-year deal you have to make the playoffs more than once. It is frustrating for us.”

He is not just a guy who shows up for games and tailgates. Osentoski was part of a 70-person entourage that visited Philadelphia for the snow bowl earlier this season. He also went to the Lions' victory at Cleveland with 30 friends and has attended each Lions home game.

He plucked down $1,000 for Lions playoff tickets he will never get to use and is frustrated. He will leave this world upset about losses to Tampa Bay, Arizona and Baltimore.

As he talks about missed opportunities his voice rises and a simple conversation turns into a scream. Osentoski stops himself.

“I am sorry. I get very emotional over this,” he said.

Please stand by

I feel his pain. These are tough days for Lions fans. They were teased with the possibility of an 11-win season and now they are out of the playoffs. You saw the frustration in one Lions fan as he sat at the bar with a Lions cap dangling backwards and his girlfriend rubbing his back trying to make things better.

Schwartz is on the hot seat with fans but here is where we differ. The Lions should not fire Schwartz unless they are willing to go after Jon Gruden or Lovie Smith, two men who have been to Super Bowls. What’s the point?

The Lions have fired Wayne Fontes, Marty Mornhinweg, Steve Mariucci and Rod Marinelli and haven’t come close to winning a title. This is not about changing a coach. It is about changing a culture. The names and faces change but little else does.

Some Lions fans stand by their team. Viviano’s in Eastern Market was packed with people wearing Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh and Stafford jerseys. They even broke into a loud rendition of the Lions fight song.

“Onward down the field,” they sang.

Two of the singers were Cynthia Tewes of Grosse Pointe and her friend Aimee Orn of Casco. Tewes paints her face silver and blue for home games.

“I will never give up on this team, no matter what,” Tewes said.

Why?

“They have too much talent and I believe at some point they will get it together,” she said. “I have been with them since the 0-16 year. It is going to happen and I want to be there when it happens.”

Replaced by whom?

Tewes remains loyal to Schwartz. She is not as big a fan of Stafford, who is frustrating and agonizing. But here is where we agree. Fans want to get rid of Schwartz and there are plenty of rumors that suggest he is on the hot seat. I for one do not agree. Despite what you read I am convinced he will return. When you look at the history of the Lions they are all about giving people second and third chances.

If the Lions fire Schwartz, can fans be confident they will find the right person to lead this team to playoff victories and championship runs? I am not. The Ford family has never done it before. Why should we bank on them doing it this time?

“I think Schwartz has been wonderful,” Tewes said. “You can only do so much when you don’t have the support of your assistant coaches. ... I think Schwartz is a good coach and I don’t want him fired.”

Terry.Foster@detroitnews.com
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