Detroit, MI—Former Titans' Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz has been named as the newest head coach of the hapless Detroit Lions, beating out fellow defensive coordinators Steve Spagnuolo, Leslie Frasier, and Ron Rivera for the job. Details of the reported four-year deal are to be released in a press conference on Friday.
Schwartz, 42, has spent the last eight years with the Titans, helping to build the defense that this year was ranked at or near the top of the league in most defensive categories. Conversely, the Lions ranked last in both yardage and points allowed in 2008, and have been ranked no higher than 20th this decade.
The new coach will immediately face the challenge of what to do with the upcoming NFL draft. With few exceptions, the Lions' draft choices have done nothing but provide more of the same for the perennial cellar-dwellers of the NFL.
With the exception of Barry Sanders—for obvious reasons—Calvin Johnson, and possibly Herman Moore, Detroits's first-round picks have run the gauntlet from wasted talent to absolute bust. From 1985 to 2008, here is how each player fared in their sometimes brief NFL career.
Lomas Brown, T, 1985: His years in Detroit where nothing spectacular, but he did win a Super Bowl ring. With the Buccaneers in 2002, shortly before retiring.
Chuck Long, QB, 1986: The first Big Ten player to pass for over 10,000 yards in his career, Long's best season with Detroit was 1987, when he threw for 2,598 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 20—yes, 20—interceptions.
Reggie Rogers, DE, 1987: Managed a whole year in the NFL before being convicted of vehicular homicide in a hit-and-run accident for which he served 16 months in prison. Inexplicably, the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers each gave him a shot, and he lasted one year with each team.
In November of 2008, he was arrested on his fifth DUI in the state of Washington.
Bennie Blades, S, 1988: A highly touted defensive back out of the University of Miami, Bennie managed eight years with the Lions, in which time he garnered a mind-boggling 14 interceptions and an astounding one touchdown during his tenure with Detroit.
Barry Sanders, RB, 1989: What is there to say? The only player to truly have an impact on the Lions' success, Detroit reached the playoffs five times with Sanders in the backfield. He was 10 yards shy of the NFL season rushing record as a rookie, only getting beat because he refused to go back into a game just to get the record.
Sanders retired within striking distance of Walter Payton's all-time record, but the "culture of losing" with the Lions got the best of him first, and he walked away two years into a six-year contract.
In typical screwed-up-priorities fashion, the Lions sued him for the money. And won. At least they can be successful in something.
Andre Ware, QB, 1990: Another colossal bust for the Lions. Ware set 26 collegiate records and won the Heisman in 1989 before declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft, but only managed to play in 14 games.
Ware was out of the NFL by 1994, where he went on to failure in the CFL and NFL Europe.
Herman Moore, WR, 1991: Moore had a decent career, spending 11 years with the Lions and one—his last—with the Giants. His Pro Bowl ability, however, did not translate to Lions success in making it past the first round of the playoffs.
Robert Porcher, DE, 1992: Porcher played 14 years with the Lions, his best year being 1999 when he racked up 15 sacks and 106.5 tackles. Porcher has gone on to be more successful in the restaurant business than he was on the football field; He is the proprietor of three successful eateries in downtown Detroit.
Johnnie Morton, WR, 1994: Played for the Lions until 2002 but never developed into the big-play receiver they had hoped for. Was more famous for stating he wanted Jay Leno, who had been using the Lions as fodder for his late night monologue, to "kiss my ass" following the Lions's first win after going 0-12 to open the season.
Released by the San Fransisco 49ers after one nondescript season, Morton went on to chase glory and fame as an MMA fighter with K-1. Got knocked out in his debut match in the first 38 seconds, later revealing that he had only trained in martial arts for a few months before the fight.
Morton was also denied his purse for the fight and banned indefinitely after refusing a mandatory post-fight doping test. What a dope.
Luther Elliss, DT, 1995: Played eight years with the Lions and made the Pro Bowl twice, apparently drawing the sympathy vote straw for the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
Jeff Hartings, OG, 1996: Was drafted by the Lions to play right guard, but saw his best years as a center for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hartings retired after the 2006 season, one month after the Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl.
Reggie Brown, LB, 1996: Never had a chance to prove if he was worth the 17th overall pick. Brown suffered a spinal cord contusion in his 32nd and last game in the NFL. The injury nearly killed him, and life in a wheelchair was narrowly averted by emergency surgery.
Bryant Westbrook, CB, 1997: Another player who never had the opportunity to live up to his potential. Westbrook looked to be on his way to a possible Hall of Fame career early, only to be hampered by multiple ruptured Achilles tendon injuries that ultimately ended his career.
Terry Fair, CB, 1998: Absolutely not worth the pick. Managed 43 tackles—all in his final year with the Lions—and seven total interceptions in his four short years with Detroit, and was out of the league by 2002—if you don't count his less then stellar attempt at a comeback with the Rams in 2005.
Aaron Gibson, T, 1999: Probably because he was a colossal human being—he holds the distinction of being the first NFL player to eclipse 400 pounds—Gibson, due to repeated injuries, only managed to play 16 games over three years with the Lions before he was cut. Was last seen playing for the Austin Wranglers of the currently-defunct Arena Football League.
Chris Claiborne, LB, 1999: His longest tenure with any of the five teams he "played" for in the NFL was the Lions, from 1999-2002. Currently a free agent, apparently still holding out for another shot. Reportedly seen playing golf with Kordell Stewart, another free agent hanger-on.
Stockar McDougle, T, 2000: From NFL.com: "this player does not have any statistics". Enough said.
Jeff Backus, T, 2001: Member of the current 0-16 Lions team. Signed a $40 million, six-year contract in 2006 that appears to be paying off nicely.
Joey Harrington, QB, 2002: Hailed as the "Savior" upon his draft, only to be run out of town five years later by a pitchfork-wielding, torch-waving mob. Okay, not really, but his record of 18-37 as a starter for the Lions led to his eventual replacement by John Kitna and Josh McCown.
Although he wasn't with the Lions by 2006, he is the only quarterback known to have achieved a perfect 0.0 passer rating, going five-for-17 passing with 20 total yards as a Dolphin in a game against Minnesota.
Charles Rogers, WR, 2003: Broke his collarbone in consecutive seasons—2003 an 2004—then was suspended in 2005 for repeated violations of the league's substance abuse policy. It was later revealed that he had failed drug tests every year as a college player, yet this information somehow never came up until after his NFL suspension.
Last worked out for the Kansas City Chiefs, where he ran a 4.8 40-yard dash—worse than his 4.28 in the 2007 NFL combine. Still holding out hope as a free agent; the NFLPA has yet to receive his retirement request.
Kevin Jones, RB, 2004: Detroit thought they pulled a fast one when they drafted Jones with the 30th pick; the New England Patriots had intended to take him at No. 32. The Patriots later sent the Lions organization a thank-you card for saving them a wasted draft pick.
Jones's durability has been called into question after repeated foot fractures; the Chicago Bears still decided to take a chance on him with a one-year, $605,000 contract in 2008.
Roy Williams, WR, 2005: Detroit may have shot themselves in the foot here. Williams may have actually been an asset. In 2006 he had 1,310 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, and was named to the Pro Bowl active roster in 2007. Inexplicably, the Lions traded him to the Cowboys in 2007.
Mike Williams, WR, 2005: Probably the worst pick the Detroit Lions made out of the group. Williams was required to sit out his third year in college after mistakenly hiring an agent before he found out it was too early for him to declare for the draft.
Played in 14 games as a rookie, with 29 receptions, 350 yards, and one touchdown. Followed that up with eight catches and 99 yards in 2006. Probably had dropped five times as many passes as he caught.
After being traded to the Oakland Raiders in 2007, he continued his stone-handed ways, and was cut a few days after dropping a critical pass on fourth down that would have given the Raiders possession in the red zone with an opportunity to score and win the game.
For some unknown reason—possibly sympathy—the Titans picked him up off waivers in November of the same year. He reported to the Titans weighing 271 pounds—271 pounds?!?!?—and was cut in 2008 when he reported for workouts still topping 240.
Ernie Sims, LB, 2006: targeted by Lions General Manager Matt Millen to bolster the defense at the weak-side linebacker. Apparently Millen interpreted bolster to mean "make it the best bad defense in the league."
Calvin Johnson, WR, 2007: Could quite possibly develop into a fabulous football player—if he can get the Lions to release him from the six-year, $64 million contract they signed him to. Led the league in receiving touchdowns with 12, and finished fifth in total receiving yards. Possibly would have made the Pro Bowl if he was playing anywhere but Detroit.
Gosder Cherilus, OL, 2008: Too early to tell with Mr. Cherilus. Did play well enough to earn the starting job over George Foster after game three, but the results of the season do not speak well for his abilities.
Schwartz Up to the Challenge
When asked about his potential hire to manage the 0-16 Lions, Schwartz replied, "I don't shy away from a challenge."
Well, he's got one. He will become the Lions' eighth head coach this decade, with none lasting more than a three-year stint.
Schwartz isn't coming in totally unprepared. He began his NFL tutelage on Bill Belichick's staff as a researcher, and spent time as a college and pro scout before taking the defensive coordinator job at Tennessee.
He's going to need every trick in his bag to turn this team around, and given the "win now or you're out" mentality currently subscribed to by NFL owners, he will be operating with a very short time line for success.
We'll hold your parking spot for ya in Nashville, Jim.