A lot of people seem to be up in arms over the recent hires to the Lion’s staff, with Cunningham and Slowik. Both are viewed as has-beens and not mentioned in the same breath as terms like “fresh thinking” and “pioneering”. Even the staff that has yet to be hired is coming under fire. The offensive propects like Brian Schottenheimer are being vilified as not innovative enough or too vanilla in nature. Maybe the pundits are right. Maybe these hires aren’t exciting or ground-breaking. But the question is… do they need to be?
Look, Cunningham doesn’t exactly make me want to dance the jig, but he’s a solid coach that will light a few fires beneath the underachieving backsides of a few current players. Slowik is a good coach that never really distinguished himself enough to take his job as coordinator to the next level. But as a secondary coach, he brings plenty of experience to Detroit. But again, should the Lions feel like they have to bring in the fad of the week or the next great thing to Detroit as a coordinator? Nope. The coordinators, most specifically on defense, need only to be a rah-rah guy that gets the most out of his players and can help teach and install. That’s it.
The ace in the hole is the hire we made initially in Schwartz. It’s his intelligence and scheme flexibility that will bring this team back to respectability. Not that the coordinator hires don’t matter, they do… just not to the extent that they have in the past here in Detroit. Neither coordinator will bring their own scheme to Detroit. Thankfully, on defense, that means the end of the despised Tampa 2 scheme. Schwartz has said that he will install a defense that will fit the personnel that they have and then draft for the defense that they eventually want. They will approach the offense in the same manner. What a concept! Make your scheme fit the players, not the other way around. If taught in classrooms, this would be Anti-Millen Concept 101.
Don’t misinterpret my comments to read that I think Schwartz is a guarantee to succeed or that he’s the next coming of Bill Belichick. If we’re lucky, he’ll achieve half the success of his former mentor. My point is that we brought him here because of his insane football smarts and his confidence in projecting that intelligence to the field as head coach. In a nutshell, I don’t think anyone should be panicking about the choices of coordinators. They will simply be installing Schwartz’s schemes and policing the sidelines, while the adjustments and overall game-plan will belong to the head coach. This is the way it is supposed to be. Detroit has just adopted a backwards logic over the past eight years with the belief that bringing in a coordinator with a new scheme will fix all ills. Lessons learned… hopefully. What it takes is solid talent evaluation, a scheme that fits the personnel, solid game-planning and the ability to adjust during the course of the game. I think that Schwartz can do the last three as long as Mayhew delivers on the talent side. Again, it’s probably me being overly positive, but I think there is a reason to be optimistic that things might be pointed in the right direction. Let’s just all hope that Schwartz is as smart as he thinks he is.