The morning after is commonly associated with headaches, regrets and thoughts about what could have (or shouldn't have) been.
The morning after the Lions' 2012 season concluded is no different. There is pain, frustration, regret and plenty of blame.
Lots and lots of blame.
Much of that blame is likely to fall on the shoulders of one Jim Schwartz, and I can understand why: an eight-game losing streak to close the season, abject disappointment coming off a playoff year and a couple of poor decisions that come directly back to Schwartz himself.
There's plenty of reason to blame Schwartz for a disappointing season. And if that's the way it has to be, then fine. Blame Schwartz. Let him know a performance like this in his fourth season with the team is not acceptable.
And then tell him to do better next year.
See, I understand that there is about to be a whole lot of grumbling about firing Jim Schwartz as the mastermind behind the 2012 disappointment, which is why I am avoiding sports talk radio for the next few weeks.
But that's not what these Lions do, is it? It was the Millen-era Lions that fired their coaches after three or four seasons, causing a total re-shuffle of personnel and schemes. Surely we've learned a thing or two since then, right?
Surely we're not so spoiled that a poor showing by a young team the year after a playoff run is enough to sour us on the head coach that led the team out of 0-16?
I mean, I'm not saying that a one-and-done trip to the playoffs is enough to give Schwartz unlimited benefit of the doubt, but he deserves more than one bad season before taking the axe.
Let's look at this logically. If the Lions had fallen completely apart down the stretch, or if the locker room had imploded, or the team appeared to have quit on him, then we could reasonably assume that Schwartz had lost control of his team.
Coaches that lose control of their teams need to be fired. But arguably, the Lions have played a more controlled, more disciplined style of football this year than they did last year.
Though the Lions (and Schwartz himself) have had a couple of big-mistake moments over the course of the season, personal fouls and post-play penalties are way down, and they've improved the team statistically in nearly every area over last year.
These are not changes typical of a team prepared to fire its head coach. These are changes typical of a team hitting its stride.
How much leeway should Jim Schwartz get?
Of course, the Lions didn't hit their stride this year. They lost a bunch of games and appeared to regress as a team. They lost a bunch of games, and never seemed to be able to come through in the clutch, which was a hallmark of the 2011 playoff team.
But realistically, do these things really, truly come back on the head coach? Is Schwartz responsible for dropped passes, a lower rate of turnovers, and the offense's inability to move the ball in close games?
Some of that, maybe. But to fire a head coach means to start from scratch. The new head coach installs his own system, his own assistants, his own players. Firing Schwartz means blowing it up and starting over from 2009.
Are these Lions so far gone that they need to start over from scratch, just one year after 10 wins and the playoffs?
To the rational mind that recognizes that setbacks are okay in the grand scheme of things, of course they're not.
So please, Lions management. Be rational about this. The Lions have kept coaches on board through more hopeless situations than this, with no signs of even marginal success.
So right after signing Schwartz to a contract extension, why would you oust the first guy to lead a Lions playoff run in over a decade, just a year after he did it?