LIONS PRESIDENT TOM LEWAND
Opening Statement: "Good afternoon. As you know, earlier today Martin and I met with Jim Schwartz and let him know that he would be relieved of his head coaching duties. We also met this afternoon with Scott Linehan and Tim Lappano and thanked them for their services and let them know that they were free to seek employment elsewhere. On behalf of the Ford family, I want to thank Jim for the five years of very hard work that he put in and for what he has contributed to this franchise. When he got here in 2009, as you know, we were coming off an 0-16 season. We have come some distance since then. The simple fact is that we have fallen short of the expectations of our ownership and those expectations are simple. They, very strongly, want to bring a consistently-winning football team to the fans of the city of Detroit. We fell short of that and the decision that was made today was a direct reflection of falling short of that goal and quite simply, we didn't win enough football games. We need to take the steps from this point forward to get over that hump. I have every confidence that we will. The search has already begun for the next head coach of the Lions. With that, we will open it up for questions for Martin or me."
On what characteristics they are looking for in the next head coach: "I think this will be one of the most, if not the single most, attractive head coaching opportunity in the National Football League for a lot of different reasons. That starts with our ownership. I think it also continues with a lot of the talented people that we have in this organization. Not just in the locker room, although there are many of those. The expectation is to bring a consistently-winning football team to the city of Detroit immediately."
On how they are approaching the search for the next head coach with so many other head coaching opportunities available in the League: "I think, as I mentioned, this is a very attractive opportunity. I can verify that by the number of calls we have already gotten since the announcement was made at Noon today. We will go through the process. I think going through a thorough process is extremely important. That doesn't necessarily mean that has to be a long process, but it has to be a thorough process. We will go through a process of interviews and research to make sure that we find the best fit for the Detroit Lions."
On the job status of the other assistant coaches: "At this point in time, most of our other assistants are under contract for 2014. There are a couple whose contracts expire at the end of January. We have been in touch with each of our coaches, but as of right now they are all under contract of the Detroit Lions."
On what led to the team not being able to capitalize on the 6-3 record: "I don't know if it makes a whole lot of sense to analyze the week-to-week, game-to-game or quarter-to-quarter about what happened or why in each individual game and why we are where we are. The simple fact is we are where we are. We did not win the division title. We did not win enough games. We made the changes today that we think are necessary to get us to those goals."
On if Jim Schwartz would still be the head coach is the Lions won the Baltimore game: "Well, I don't know that it's particularly productive to play the would've, could've, should've game in hindsight or theoretical terms. The fact is we are here right now and we finished the season 7-9 and that's not acceptable. We have to go forward from here."
On if any other outside factors influenced the decision to relieve Schwartz of his duties: "I think you saw the decision we made today. We have an ongoing dialogue with our ownership and their expectations are very clear. It starts with winning football games, but you also know the commitment we have to our fans and to our community. Jim has done a lot for this organization on that front over the years. The simple fact of the matter is that the decision was made to get us to reach all of our goals."
On who will be heading the search for the next head coach: "Well, Martin and I will do a lot of the work. Ultimately, the decision will be made by the Ford family. They have always been involved at that decision level, but we will go out there and do the due diligence that we have already started that process as I mentioned before. We will work exhaustively until we have a slate of candidates to bring in and narrow that down to ultimately the one who fits us. There was another question about what the right profile is and the characteristics, it has to be the right coach for the Detroit Lions at this point in time with our roster the way it is. It's the right coach that fits our organization and that can help make our organization better and get it to those goals that our ownership has for us."
On how quickly he wants the coaching search finalized: "We're not going to put any artificial timelines on it, but as I said, Tim (Twentyman), the process is already started."
On who among the Ford family is working with him and Mayhew: "It's the Ford Family. It's always been the Ford Family. Mr. Ford and his family have always been involved in the organization and beyond that I don't think we need to specify."
On what the Ford family has had to say about the job that he and Mayhew have done: "I think that we have, as we said, come a long way. We have a lot of really good talented people in this organization and I'm not going to apologize for any one of them. We're going to put the right additional systems in place to help all of them succeed and that's our scouts, our coaches, our sales people, our community relations folks. We have a lot of really committed talented people who have done a lot of great things for this organization and will continue to do that. I think that the things that we have to look at are how we get over that hump. While frustration can certainly set in, you also have to understand what's going well and what isn't and how we can improve on the things that aren't going well to get to where we want to go."
On what steps have been taken so far in the coaching search: "I think we can keep the specifics to ourselves, but rest assured that right after we talked to Jim (Schwartz), the conversations on our end started and the process has begun and it will continue in earnest as soon as we're done here."
On the bottom-line message to the fans: "The bottom-line message is, from our ownership on down, we are unwaveringly committed to bringing a consistently winning football team to this town, immediately."
On what he and Mayhew learned from their first coaching search in 2009: "I think that anytime you go through a process, you learn from it. We got a chance to interact with a lot of tremendously talented coaches, some of whom are head coaches in the NFL right now. You gain a tremendous amount of knowledge about what different systems and practices are applied in different situations and it will help, without a doubt to develop that specific profile that we have for the head coach of the Detroit Lions in 2014 and beyond that is a different profile than we had in 2009. That experience helps, information helps, but it's, all, again a part of the process."
On how big of a topic that the amount of money left on Schwartz's contract was with the Ford family: "Our ownership's discussion begins and ends with what it takes to bring a consistently-winning football team to the city of Detroit. They started almost every conversation I had with them about the fans deserving better. Their commitment to our fans is amazing and the resources that they will bring to bear to accomplish the goal that they have for this organization is tremendously significant. Their focus was always on what it takes to get over that hump, to take the work that Jim Schwartz and his staff have done together with the other folks in this building and the progress that has been made and now really get to where we want to go as an organization. That was their focus."
On Mayhew's performance as general manager: "I would say this, this is a hard day. Families are affected. It is never easy and as much as the focus is on making this a consistently winning football team, you cannot lose sight of the human element. Our families are friends, our wives are friends, our kids are friends and that's a difficult day in any situation. It's not often that somebody gets let go and they have television cameras and the media world paying attention to it. I want to be respectful to that and that's where that speculation becomes that much more frustration. To answer your question, I am proud to work alongside Martin. I think he is one of the smartest and most talented people I have been around and I look forward to helping him and this organization to get over the hump in the coming year."
On the Ford family's disappointment this season: "I think they are as frustrated as we were and as our fans were to not able to get over that hump at 6-3, to not able to win the division title, to not hosting a home playoff game this weekend, if not having a bye and that is the reason we are sitting here today having this conversation. Their commitment to getting us to that goal is really what drives a lot of their emotions whether they are positive or negative."
On if the large amount of coaching openings have put pressure on them to hire a coach faster: "I think we can be thorough. I think we can be expedient. I think we can be efficient and there is no more pressure than finding the right person that can help us reach our goals in 2014. The goal isn't to hire the biggest name or the most popular name and win the next press conference; it is to win football games in 2014 and win a championship."
On if the new coach will have final say on the assistants' jobs: "There are some fine coaches on our staff. You said to, ‘keep them around,' and I don't want to buy into that characterization. There are some really talented football coaches here."
On if those assistants will be able to pursue other opportunities: "We will treat everybody with a lot of dignity and professionalism as we go through a difficult process with the assistants."
On the status of the offensive and defensive coordinators: "I told you that we have let Scott (Linehan) and Tim Lappano go. Everyone else remains under contract."
On if it would take a complete overhaul to change to a 3-4 defensive coach: "We have talked about building a profile for the Detroit Lions for 2014 and there is a lot that goes into that. A lot. There is a detailed profile, it is not abstract, there is a written detailed profile of what the head coach of the Detroit Lions in 2014 needs to look like. It has a lot of specifics. It's got football specifics in it, it has specific characteristics in it and we will manage to that process and that design."
LIONS EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF FOOTBALL OPERATIONS AND GENERAL MANAGER MARTIN MAYHEW
On comparing the talent level from 2009 to now: "I would say that we really have improved our talent level. I think that the head coach and his coaching staff have been a really big part of that too and they should get credit for that as well. There was a lot of hard work by a lot of people working at it, but there is not really much of a comparison between where we were in 2009 and where we are now. Anyhow, I think Jim (Schwartz) inherited a very tough job. He inherited a tough situation. Again, along with Tom and our ownership, I want to thank him for the great job that he did. We are trying to get to another place and trying to get to another level."
On if the team is one head coach away from being an immediate playoff team: "I would say this, I'm proud of the work that we have done in the personnel department. There are certainly some things that we could have done better. I spoke to Jim (Schwartz) about that today and Scott (Linehan) as well and said, ‘Hey, there are some things that we could have done better from a personnel standpoint.' I would agree with that. We think that our talent level is approaching a point where we should be contending and we are not there now."
On if prior head coaching experience is going to be a criterion for the next head coach: "I think that would benefit a candidate, but I am not going to pigeon-hole myself in to that. I think that's something that would benefit somebody that we are talking to because we think that we are pretty far along in the process and we don't want to start over."
On if the roster will play a part in the search for the next head coach: "I would say again, it's a factor. That's not going to make our decision for us."
On the importance of previous head coaching experience: "I would say it's certainly a factor. I would not say that's going to be a determining factor that we have to consider in terms of where we believe our team is right now and our ability to win right now."
On the most important criteria that he and Lewand will be looking at when evaluating the head coaching candidates: "For me, it's hard to put it on one thing. It has to be the right fit and that's a lot of different things, but we'll talk about a lot of different criteria in terms of finding the right person. Obviously, experience as a head coach is important. It doesn't matter what side of the ball it is. I also think we can to take into account a coach's ability to change our culture a little bit. It has to be something bigger than just scheme that somebody's bringing to our table."
On a coach's ability to change a team's culture: "What I would say is over the past, you go back to the last two seasons for example, we got off to a below-average start I believe in 2012. We were 4-4, fought our way back to 4-4, and we lost the last eight games. We weren't able to make that play, to get over that hump, to find a way to win some of those games down the stretch. Then we get into this season and we're 6-3 and we win one of our last seven games. It's the same situation: We were a play away. We have to find somebody that can bring that belief that we're going to get over the hump."
On if the character of the coach is more of a mentality or a discipline issue: "I think it's all those things. It is a mentality. It has to be a belief that no matter what's happening, you have an opportunity to win. You can't put yourself in a situation where you get a fatalistic attitude or you get the belief that you can't get over the hump, so to speak. I think that's something that will need to be addressed in terms of the coach of our football team."
On the next coach's immediate mandate vs. the mandate in 2009: "I think if you go back to 2009, we really were starting from the very bottom going 0-16 and hiring a new coach. We're not at that point right now. We think we're further advanced than that. We think we've come a long way and Coach Schwartz brought us a long way, but we think it's time for somebody to take over to put us over the hump and take us to the next step."
On if he thinks the roster is ready to take the next step: "We do."
On the importance of the next head coach being able to work with QB Matthew Stafford and develop him into an elite quarterback: "I don't know that it's going to be the head coach's responsibility. It might be, it may not be. We'll have coaches here that can get him to where he needs to be. He's already been a great quarterback in 2011. He had 41 touchdowns and 5,000 yards passing. We have to get him to that point and beyond. That hasn't happened the last two seasons, and part of that is personnel-related I think, but he certainly has the ability to be that guy."
On his performance as general manager: "There is a lot of speculation about a lot of things nowadays. It surprises me on the things people can speculate about. Not my job in particular, but when I read about how we are not speaking to our head coaches I am just dumbfounded by that we are not on speaking terms. It is totally wrong. It is totally off base. There tends to be speculation about things and people are just saying things that are false and it becomes news and it's very disappointing."
On if the front office will consult with any outside voices regarding the coaching search: "We will have some conversation with the League office. There is a panel that they have put together and we plan to speak with them about some of the candidates."
On why Stafford hasn't been able to take the team to the next level: "There are a lot of factors involved. The quarterback, as you know, gets a lot of blame when things don't go well and gets a lot of credit when things do go well but there are a lot of things around him that take place as well. I think we can do a better job from a personnel standpoint by setting him up for success. Obviously, there are some things that can be done from a coaching standpoint as well, but it's not all on him I don't think."
On if he thinks Stafford was pushed enough by the former staff: "I can't really comment on that. All I can say about this staff is that I know they worked their butt off for us to win. They did the best they could as a staff and I appreciate and respect each one of them."
On if they would like to see a detailed quarterbacks coach come in: "I think all 32 teams want to have a detailed quarterback coach, someone who is good at coaching quarterbacks and that is certainly part of the equations, whether that is the head coach who has that experience or somebody on the staff."
On how much pressure they feel with this being a very attractive coaching vacancy to get the right guy: "It is really about finding the best coach. I don't think it's about pressure. I think that this job is going to be really attractive and, like Tom, I have been contacted by several agents and coaches today. I think we will be able to attract the right coach here."
On how big the window is for this team to be a consistent playoff contender: "I am focused on 2014 right now. I am focused on getting things right for 2014. I am not going to put the cart in front of the horse and talk about how many years we can be successful. I am focused on getting the right head coach for the future and getting this team ready for next year."
On if he will seek any input from players on the coaching search: "Not with the search process, no. I have had talks with some of the veterans about what they thought went wrong this year and that will be part of our process moving forward, but I don't think they will be involved in the coaching search."
On if the new coach will have a final say on the assistants' jobs: "That will be the coach's final decision. There are some recommendations that we will make to the coach in terms of knowing these guys and who we feel really strongly about, but it will be up to the new head coach."
On a report last year that he considered letting Schwartz go: "Totally false."
On if he feels the pieces are here to win: "We are not going to close the door on any coaching candidate by saying that. Certainly all those considerations are a part of that decision."
On why this is an attractive job: "I think we have great ownership, we have a great quarterback, we have a talented roster and I think those are what a lot of people are looking for."
On if it would take a complete overhaul to change to a 3-4 defensive coach: "It would, but we have not ruled out anybody. Certainly a coach that runs a 4-3 would be more attractive based on the scheme. Again, it is bigger than x's and o's. It is bigger than scheme. It is bigger than that. This guy has to be a leader and has to be able to lead our team."