When the Detroit Lions gave him his first shot to be a head coach at any level in 2009, he talked about taking on and tackling challenges his entire life.
Then Schwartz helped the hapless franchise improve in each of his first three years. He led the Lions to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade in 2011.
The Lions, though, took a big step back last year by losing their last eight games to flop to a 4-12 finish. With the slide, Schwartz lost his status as a coach with stability and acknowledged getting a dose of humility.
“It was humbling for me personally,” Schwartz said Thursday, the day before leading his first training camp practice of the year. “I think it was humbling for the team.”
The coach, though, often pays the price for a team’s failures. So Schwartz needs better results and fewer life lessons if he wants to stay in Detroit.
And he’s hardly the only one in the league with his job on the line.
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, Dallas’ Jason Garrett, Tennessee’s Mike Munchak , Oakland’s Dennis Allen and Carolina’s Ron Rivera also face a sense of urgency to win _ or else.
When pressed to address Schwartz’s job security _ or lack of it _ Lions vice chairman Bill Ford hasn’t given him much of a vote of confidence.
“I think Jim would be the first to admit that there have been times where he’s learned on the job,” Ford said.
Schwartz, with a 22-42 record in Detroit, has declined to provide details about the lessons, but accepted Ford’s assessment.
“If you’re building cars on the line down the street, you’re selling insurance, you’re coaching or you’re a player, you’re going to learn,” Schwartz said earlier this summer. “And, you’re going to be better the second time you experience something or go through something.”
Ryan, hired the same year as Schwartz, may not get a second chance to bounce back from a losing season. Unlike Schwartz, Ryan is working for a general manager who didn’t hire him. Ryan’s contract runs out after 2014.
The Jets were 6-10 last year under Ryan, following a .500 season that didn’t build upon an 11-win 2010 or a winning season in his debut with the franchise.
Jets owner Woody Johnson fired GM Mike Tannenbaum a day after last season and hired John Idzik. While Johnson does seem to be fond of Ryan, he’s not sold enough on him to extend his contract a second time.