December 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Terry Foster

Jim Schwartz goes out like a Lion with strong message to players

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Allen Park – There were tears and heartfelt emotions when Jim Schwartz addressed his team for the final time Monday at the Allen Park practice facility.

He was fired after his fifth and most frustrating season as Lions head coach. The team could not make the playoffs in a terrible NFC North.

This good news for Lions fans goes beyond letting a guy go who never understood the importance of discipline. This represents forward thinking for a backward organization.

“I am shocked, man. I did not think they would get rid of him,” said former Lions offensive lineman Lomas Brown. “When you look at the history of the team, knowing Mr. Ford. Besides, I know where the team came from to where it is today. They have brought in some quality players. We got the talent to win.”

Jim Schwartz got the Lions to a certain point, but like his players often this season, Schwartz was not able to close the deal.

Let’s throw out the first two years of his career here because the Lions did not have a real team that could compete. The last three years they did. The Lions were 15-9 in the first half of the last three seasons with Schwartz and 6-19 (including a playoff loss to New Orleans) in the second half.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, we were expected to win a lot of games,” said wide receiver Nate Burleson. “But when you don’t win there is always someone you have to get rid of to start the process. And Jim was the first to go.”

Players were impressed with how Schwartz went out.

“He stood on his own 10 toes and told us like a man,” Burleson said. “He talked about the journey and enjoying the ride. He put himself and his team in position where we were expected to win a lot of games. Because he didn’t he got fired. It was a heartfelt moment, guys were shocked but we appreciated that he told us like men.”

The Lions players loved Schwartz for the wrong reasons. He allowed them to make their own mistakes and play like their pants were on fire. That is fine to a degree, but the NFL has changed. The Lions are the unofficial bad boys of the NFL and the league does not tolerate such tactics.

They are viewed as thugs at a time when the NFL is worried about rough play and concussions. Now the Lions must find a man who not only can change the culture of a losing dressing room but change its image.

It is always tough to lose a coach but this is the right thing to do. But I never expected this to happen because the Lions give people more chances than they deserve. Do you remember Matt Millen, the worst general manager in sports history, getting a contract extension after five years on the job?

Schwartz did way better as a coach than Millen as a GM.

So this progressive thinking is something to celebrate. This gives Lions fans something to bank on. Many of them were steamed after receiving playoff tickets in the mail right after the Lions were eliminated from the playoffs. That was a huge punch in the gut for them.

Now we must hope the Lions can get the right man for the job. Can the Lions actually hire a good coach?

Joe Schmidt (43-34-7) remains the only coach hired by the Fords to leave with a winning record. None of the other 12 coaches left with winning records.

I feel for Lions fans. But give the organization some credit for shedding its history of firing a guy too late.

Now, can they shed their history of finding bad replacements?

Twitter@TerryFoster971

Jim Schwartz talks with Matthew Stafford during the Lions' game in Cleveland in October. / Daniel Mears / Detroit News