Schwartz excited about prospect of turning around winless Lions

DETROIT -- Jim Schwartz faces the biggest challenge among the NFL's 32 head coaches next season: turning around a team that didn't win a single game.

Bring it on, says the Detroit Lions' new coach.

"There's no better feeling in football than turning a situation around. That's what drives me here," the 42-year-old former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator said during his introductory news conference Friday at Ford Field.

The Lions badly want the one-time Georgetown University economics major to come up with a formula to fix a franchise coming off the NFL's first 0-16 season, an eight-season stretch that has been the worst in the league since World War II and a run of more than 50 years with only one playoff win.

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 ...

"I can't speak of the past, I'm here right now," Schwartz said. "I'm not here to exorcise any ghosts."

While Detroit's football future is far from certain, Schwartz told reporters they can count on at least one thing.

"We'll put a team on the field that you'll be proud of," he said one day after agreeing to a four-year contract worth about $11 million.

The son of a police officer and a deceased mother who raised nine kids, Schwartz said he was a blue-collar guy who will fit in well with the culture of Detroit.

"This is what I am," Schwartz said.

Schwartz said he owns only two suits that fit, finding out recently that a third is too small because of the weight he gained during the season.

"He's a football guy -- I love that," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said.

Schwartz's coming-out party was the culmination of years of hard work. 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.

The Baltimore native became a head-coaching candidate in recent years because of his work in Tennessee, leading to interviews with the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers in recent years.

But Schwartz got his start as an unpaid intern for Bill Belichick with the Cleveland Browns, later was paid as a scout and moved on to be an assistant for the Ravens, then became one of the league's best defensive coordinators in Tennessee.

Schwartz singled out Belichick, who's now leading the New England Patriots, and Titans coach Jeff Fisher as mentors.

Schwartz replaces Rod Marinelli, who was fired two weeks ago after he went 10-38 in three seasons, dropping Detroit to 31-97 since 2001 when former team president Matt Millen took over a mediocre franchise and turned it into a laughingstock.

The Chicago Cardinals, who won just 23 percent of their games from 1936 to 1943, are the last team to perform as poorly as the Lions have over an eight-season stretch.

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's 2003 Titans defense ranked first in the NFL in rushing defense and led the league in third-down defense at 27.7 percent -- the lowest mark since the 1998 Oakland Raiders. 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 said he has coordinators he'd like to have in Detroit, but neither is in place. He also planned to talk to the remaining assistants from Marinelli's staff.

"I'll talk to a lot of people next week at the Senior Bowl," he said.

Schwartz also planned to call Detroit's entire roster.

"I want to make personal contact with every player," he said. "Finding my way from the hotel to the facility will be a good start, also."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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