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Lions DC Cunningham gushes over Schwartz' focus, intensity

This season's NFL Coach of the Year will be lifted from a deep pool of deserving candidates, but in Gunther Cunningham's universe, this one's in the books.

The Lions defensive coordinator believes the finest coach in the land resides just up the hallway in the person of Jim Schwartz, the engine behind Detroit's stirring turnaround in 2011.

"He's consistent and he's tough as nails," Cunningham told MLive.com this week. "He will not give in on anything. There are times when I see the team's tired, I think he's going to give them a break. No way. He won't do it.

"The only guy I've ever been around like that is Marty Schottenheimer. I've never seen two guys who were closer, and Marty won 60-some percent of his games. (Schwartz) is going to do the same thing."

Schwartz, whose 10-5 Lions are playoff-bound, isn't the only guy turning out strong work during a campaign marred by a lockout that deep-sixed the offseason. First-year coaches faced an abyss at the outset, making Jim Harbaugh's 12-3 season with the 49ers a sight to behold.

Just don't mention the concept of Harbaugh, who's not exactly friends with Schwartz, winning any coaching trophies to Cunningham.

"I think it's a joke that he's -- how can you not vote (Schwartz) coach of the year (based on) what he's done coming in here?" Cunningham said. "When I first got here, I said, 'Uh-oh, this is going to be tough.' And I told him several times, 'You never told me how tough this job was going to be.' ... I think he's done a magnificent job. I am so proud of him."

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