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Schwartz: Coaching Lions ‘an awesome time in my life’

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

St. Paul, Minn. — The Detroit Lions have never been to the Super Bowl, but the franchise’s future and present are overlapping at Super Bowl 52.

While Lions fans eagerly await the arrival of Matt Patricia, the New England Patriots defensive coordinator who will be tasked with elevating the team to previously unattainable levels of success, his counterpart on the Philadelphia Eagles, Jim Schwartz, already traveled that path.

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was the Lions’ head coach from 2009-2013.

Schwartz took over the Lions in 2009, when expectations were a bit different. The team was coming off the first 0-16 season in NFL history and the brash young coordinator from Tennessee was charged with getting them back to respectability.

It took Schwartz just three seasons to get the Lions into the playoffs, the franchise’s first postseason appearance in 12 years. But the inability to sustain that success, including a season-ending losing skid in 2013, ultimately led to his dismissal.

“The more you win, the better chance you have to stay around,” Schwartz said Monday night. “We were in first place and lost the last four and that’s a hard thing to overcome.”

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The ability to maintain the upward trajectory was disappointing for Schwartz, but he still reflects positively on his five years in Detroit.

“That was an awesome time in my life,” Schwartz said. “Not only to be a head coach and take over a franchise, a historical franchise like that, but to get them back to life. We didn’t have the success that we wanted to have, and I’ll say I didn’t have the success, the ultimate success that we wanted to have because I wanted them to be in this game.

“Just to bring that program back to life from where they were, I think that meant a lot to me. I’ll always cherish my time in Detroit, and my family will always cherish their time in Detroit. Even though they spent most of their lives, chronologically, in different places, if you ask all my kids where they’re from, every one of them will say Detroit, Michigan.”

Jim Schwartz was the Lions' head coach from 2009-13.

Schwartz has gone on to great success since being fired by the Lions. He served as the defensive coordinator in Buffalo in 2014 and instantly made them one of the league’s premier defenses. After he parted ways with that organization after one season amidst a coaching change, he spent a year working as a consultant with the league’s officiating department before joining the Eagles.

His defense is a big reason the team is in the Super Bowl. Philadelphia ranked fourth in total defense and scoring defense in 2017, and Schwartz’s trademark aggressive front four was in full force when the team wrecked the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship, 38-7.

It begs the question, when will Schwartz get another chance to be a head coach? He’s been rumored to be in the mix for a couple jobs in recent years, but he deflected any questions about what happened with those reported opportunities in Tampa Bay and New York.

Asked if he expected another chance to front his own team, Schwartz said he’d prefer to live in the moment.

“I think I put myself in the same category as a lot of our players,” he said. “It was never our goal to just to be here. We all start with goals and every coach, every player I know, their No. 1 goal is to win the Super Bowl. It’s not to be a first-team All-Pro, it’s not be a coordinator, to be a head coach, it’s to win the Super Bowl. That’s why we’re here.

“I’ve always been the kind guy to try and do a good job at what I’m doing and I know this, I wouldn’t trade this run we’ve made from anything,” Schwartz said. “Our ultimate goal, I’ve been 25 years in the NFL, I’ve been to the playoffs, I’ve been to the Super Bowl, I’ve been a head coach, I’ve never won a Super Bowl. I’m going to stay in this moment, enjoy this and concentrate all our efforts on that.”