Talk of Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz being on the hot seat is nothing new. For weeks, fans have been discussing the idea of the Lions parting ways with Schwartz at the end of the 2012 season. As the losing streak has grown longer, more and more fans have become open to the idea of a coaching change. And following Sunday's ugly loss to the Arizona Cardinals, it seems the national media is starting to take notice of calls for a change to be made.
Now, just because some fans want a change to be made doesn't mean it'll happen. I still would be pretty shocked if the Lions decide to fire Schwartz simply because he was just given a contract extension last summer. And while 2012 has been a train wreck, he did lead the Lions to the playoffs in 2011. I just don't expect the Lions to make a change even though they could lose eight games in a row to finish the season.
With that said, I do think the possibility now at least exists of the Lions pulling the plug on the Schwartz era. The Lions are spiraling out of control with their free fall after Sunday's loss to the Cardinals, and I'm not ready to rule out the idea of complete chaos in the final two games leading to a change. Again, I still think it's unlikely, but I wouldn't put the odds of Schwartz returning at 100 percent by any means.
With all of that in mind, let's take a look at what options the Lions have when it comes to Schwartz and the coaching staff going into 2013:
Option No. 1: Retain Schwartz and the entire coaching staff
Option No. 1 is simply to bring back everybody next season. By that, I mean make no changes to the coaching staff. Schwartz returns as head coach, and coordinators Scott Linehan, Gunther Cunningham and Danny Crossman are all retained, as are the rest of the assistants. Essentially, everybody comes back in hopes that 2012 was more of a fluke than 2011.
Option No. 2: Retain Schwartz and make minor changes to the coaching staff
The second option is to keep the majority of the coaching staff intact. Schwartz, Linehan and Cunningham all come back, but perhaps the Lions part ways with Crossman and a couple assistant coaches. Essentially, the main framework of the coaching staff stays in place, but the Lions do bring in a few new voices for 2013.
Option No. 3: Retain Schwartz but shake up the coaching staff
In this particular scenario, Schwartz returns but major changes are made to the coaching staff. By that, I mean the Lions decide to hire a new offensive and/or defensive coordinator, as well as a few new assistants. Schwartz remains in charge, but perhaps a new coordinator or two bring a change in philosophy to the offense or defense.
(This option reminds me of what Michigan basketball did after a disappointing 2009-10 season. Michigan followed up its first tournament appearance in 11 seasons with a 15-17 season marred by chemistry issues. Before the next season, head coach John Beilein cleaned house and brought in new assistant coaches. Since then, Michigan has made the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons and won its first Big Ten title since the 1980s. Right now, Michigan is ranked No. 2 in the nation. Essentially, you keep the man in charge the same but bring in fresh ideas and new voices in hopes of providing a much-needed spark to the team.)
Option No. 4: Fire Schwartz, clean house and hire a new head coach
The fourth and final option is to completely clean house by firing Schwartz. In this scenario, the Lions would decide that 2012 was bad enough that it's necessary to make a coaching change, and they would set out to find someone else to run the Lions. The new head coach would bring in a new coaching staff and look to take the Lions to the next level -- in this case, a team that competes for NFC North titles year in and year out and is a perennial playoff contender.
The obvious risk that comes along with making a head coaching change is the unknown of what a coaching search will entail. No matter what some people think, it's not like the Lions can just easily go out and hire a Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden. It's much more complicated than that, and the possibility of the Lions not getting a proven winner exists. Whether that risk outweighs being patient and giving Schwartz another chance remains to be seen.
As you can see, most of the options the Lions have involve bringing Schwartz back. How many other assistants and coordinators are brought back with him depends on just how big of a shake-up the Lions want to make. If the Lions want to make the ultimate shake-up, they will fire Schwartz and go in a completely different direction.
Personally, I'm not ready to make a final determination one way or another until the season is over. Options 3 and 4 are certainly the most appealing to me right now, and I'm leaning toward them, but I'm going to wait until the 2012 season is over to take a final stance on what the Lions should do.