After the Detroit Lions went 4-12 in 2012 and dealt with several off-field issues, a lot of people wanted them to fire head coach Jim Schwartz. It never really looked like a coaching change was all that close to happening, but a recent report from ESPN's Ed Werder suggests otherwise.
According to MLive, Werder reported on SportsCenter this week that Schwartz was "nearly fired" after last season. However, the Lions ultimately retained Schwartz because, according to Werder, "the buyout number in his contract was far too high" in the eyes of Bill Ford Jr.
Essentially, if Werder's report is accurate, Martin Mayhew wanted to fire Schwartz and bring in somebody else, but ownership stepped in and prevented that from happening. Schwartz received a contract extension that reportedly runs through 2015 in the summer before the 2012 season, and based on this report, the Fords didn't want to fire Schwartz with three years left on the deal because of his buyout.
Personally, I only buy part of this story; other parts don't make a ton of sense, especially when you consider that Werder simply mentioned this on SportsCenter and didn't follow it up with an actual story online or elsewhere. Perhaps he's simply connecting the dots and doesn't have a concrete source, but in any case, I do buy the idea that Mayhew wanted Schwartz gone but was overruled by ownership. There were reports of "tension" between Mayhew and Schwartz toward the end of last season, and after all of the negative things that happened in 2012, I buy the idea that some people in the franchise wanted to change head coaches.
The part I don't buy is that the Fords stepped in and overruled Mayhew because of money. A simple look at all of the cash the Lions have spent on players in the last year alone makes it pretty clear that this team isn't being cheap. So if it came down to ponying up a few million here or there to change coaches, I'm guessing the Lions wouldn't have had a problem doing it. My feeling is it had more to do with the fact that the Lions just gave Schwartz an extension before the 2012 season, so perhaps they wanted to give him at least one more year to turn things back around.
At this point, what reportedly nearly happened after the 2012 season could be what will in fact happen in a couple weeks when the 2013 season comes to a close. The Lions are 7-7 after starting the season 6-3, and they are on the verge of missing the playoffs despite having the NFC North in their control for much of the year. Barring a turnaround in the final two weeks followed by a run in the playoffs, it appears that the Schwartz era in Detroit is nearing its end.