It's bizarre; after all the ridiculousness of the Mayhew/Lewand introduction, the boo birds, the jeers, the wait-and-seers, the media silence, the furtive hunt for scraps of info . . . after all this, we wake up today with a new head coach. His name is Jim Schwartz, I call him the Grandmaster, and he brings an extensive and nigh-on-bulletproof resume to the table. He's worked for Bill Belicheck as a scout and film analyst, and he's worked for Jeff Fisher as his right-hand man. In an industry full of, frankly, glorified gym teachers, Jim Schwartz is a man who could have been a professor, an economist, a politician, or an investor--but instead he followed his passion, and he's built and overseen one of the premier NFL defenses of the past decade.
Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand can be ridiculed for being part of the Millen fiasco. They can be questioned for having little demonstrable experience. But--without knowing what the future will hold--they can't be mocked for how they handled this hire. As they said they would, they kept a tight lock on information--yet wordlessly presented each finalist to the media to see how they handled themselves. They interviewed many possible candidates, yet never tipped their hand. It became clear after a while that even tapped-in reporters like Adam Schefter were just guessing as to what their next move would be. And when the iron was hot, they struck.
It's impossible to say right now how this hire will turn out. There are many 'fans' who are saying "Great, the Lions hired somebody. If he was willing to come here, he MUST suck!" I saw the two-inch-letter headline on the Free Press today: "LIONS ROLL DICE WITH ANOTHER UNTESTED COACH". But Schwartz is a legit candidate who's interviewed for several other jobs in the past couple of years. Now if the hire had been Jerry Gray, or, to an extent, Todd Bowles, then we as fans would have a real beef. I can tell you that if Mayhew had quickly hired a former teammate who'd never been a coordinator, or even given serious consideration as a head coach by any other team, I'd be fuming right now. For another, if Mayhew had pulled the trigger on the Grandmaster the instant he interviewed, I'd be wondering if we really got the right guy. The fact that they did a second interview with another candidate--and a first interview with another--after Schwartz's big day on Monday, tells me they didn't just settle for the first guy who didn't show up for the interview drunk or naked.
Now . . . the coordinator watch is on. This will tell us a lot more about the eventual X-and-O philosophies the Lions will utilize in 2009 then looking at Schwartz's past and extrapolating forward. PFT is reporting that Broncos QB coach Jeremy Bates (who called the plays for the Broncos last year) is one serious candidate for OC, and Jets OC Brian Schottenheimer is the other. I know Schottenheimer is a very well-respected young coach; in fact he's a finalist to be hired as the new head coach in New York--but something tells me the Jets won't fire the Mangenius just to then hire his top lieutenant. Either way, we see offenses that feature one-cut power run games mixed with agressive downfield passing--exactly the kind of combination that suits both our talent, and what we as fans of NFC North football want to see from our team.
There is no word yet on potential defensive coordinators; most of the bright lights of Schwartz's old staff are also candidates to replace him in Tennessee. Keep an eye on Titans DB coach Chuck Cecil--yes, THAT Chuck Cecil. He would bring the fire and emotion that I said I'd like to see at DC if Schwartz was hired. If Schwartz is the mastermind and Cecil is the fiery leader, I think this unit will respond like crazy.
The wait for news is over. Long live the wait . . .