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Lions turn to Titans' Schwartz as next coach after winless season

DETROIT -- Jim Schwartz insisted that he loves challenges.

Well, he has one.

The Detroit Lions, the NFL's first 0-16 team, agreed Thursday to a four-year deal with Schwartz to make him their next head coach.

NFL coaching changes

While the Jets, Raiders and Rams continue to work to fill their head-coaching openings, the Lions made Jim Schwartz the sixth new head coach to be hired this offseason. **More ...**

The former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator will be introduced at a Friday news conference at Ford Field, where Detroit lost its home games this season by an average of 21.4 points, breaking another dubious league record.

Schwartz, 42, just finished his eighth season as the Titans' defensive coordinator and his 10th on their staff. He interviewed for a second time with the Lions on Monday.

"After an extensive search that included several highly qualified coaches, we are thrilled that Jim Schwartz will become our team's head coach," Lions president Tom Lewand said in a statement released by the team. "(General manager) Martin (Mayhew) and I believe that Jim's qualifications and vision will lead this organization on the field toward our goal of becoming a championship football team."

The chance to lead an infamous team only seemed to motivate Schwartz to get the job.

"I don't shy away from a challenge," he said during a news conference earlier this week.

The Lions interviewed Schwartz after the regular season and had to wait for the Titans to be eliminated from the playoffs to speak with him again. Tennessee lost to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday in a divisional-round game.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher congratulated the Lions for hiring the "right guy" and said in a statement that Schwartz will be missed in Tennessee.

"In his eight years as our defensive coordinator, Jim has clearly put his stamp on that side of the ball," Fisher said. "He is competitive, a tremendous communicator and motivator, and in our opinion, he has been ready for this next step for several years."

The Lions also showed some interest in New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.

Before being hired by the Titans, Schwartz spent three years on the Baltimore Ravens' staff. He also was a college and pro scout for the Cleveland Browns, and that experience might be valuable in Detroit. The Lions have the No. 1 overall pick in April's NFL draft, along with first- and third-round picks from the Dallas Cowboys, and need to find players to spark a turnaround.

Schwartz had an idea of what to do with the first pick.

"It's probably time to find a replacement for Bobby Layne," Schwartz said Monday, showing he knows at least a little about the franchise's history.

The Lions last won a title in 1957 with Layne as their starting quarterback. A broken leg kept Layne out of the NFL Championship Game, but backup Tobin Rote led Detroit to a 59-14 victory over the Browns.

Since then, the Lions have the same number of playoff victories as Pro Bowl QBs: one.

Detroit will count on Schwartz to use his background to come up with ways to improve a defense that ranked last in the league and gave up 517 points -- threatening the NFL record for points allowed (533) in a season, set by the 1981 Baltimore Colts.

Schwartz played linebacker at Georgetown, where he earned a degree in economics. He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Maryland in 1989, later had the same position at Minnesota and went on to become a secondary coach for North Carolina Central and linebackers coach at Colgate.

But the Baltimore native became a candidate for Detroit's head-coaching job because of what he has done in Tennessee. His resume and style led to interviews with the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers in previous years.

The Titans ranked in the top seven in yards allowed in each of the past two seasons and finished second in points allowed per game at 14.6 in 2008. Schwartz's 2003 defense ranked first in the NFL in rushing defense and led the league in third-down defense at 27.7 percent -- the lowest since the 1998 Oakland Raiders.

The avid chess player analyzes football-related statistics, looking for tendencies, then has the ability to relay what he has learned to players.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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