Lions turn to Schwartz as coach

Updated: January 16, 2009, 1:38 PM ET
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DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions agreed on a four-year deal Thursday with Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to be their coach.

Schwartz will attempt to lead a turnaround for the NFL's first 0-16 team. The Lions fired Rod Marinelli two weeks ago and interviewed several candidates, including Dolphins assistant head coach Todd Bowles.

Schwartz will be introduced at a news conference Friday at Ford Field, the home of the Lions.

[+] EnlargeJim Schwartz
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireIn his first shot as an NFL head coach, Jim Schwartz will try to reawaken a franchise that just went 0-for-16.
The 42-year-old Schwartz 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," team president Tom Lewand said in a statement. "[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."

ESPN first reported the hiring.

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.

Detroit interviewed Schwartz after the regular season and had to wait for Tennessee to be eliminated from the playoffs to speak with him again. The Titans lost to Baltimore on Saturday.

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

Before being hired by Tennessee, 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.

Schwartz's preferred candidates for offensive coordinator are Jeremy Bates of the Denver Broncos and Brian Schottenheimer of the New York Jets, sources told ESPN. Bates signed a three-year contract extension with the Broncos before Mike Shanahan was fired and new coach Josh McDaniels, who will run the offense in Denver, likely would grant Bates his release.

Schottenheimer remains a strong candidate for the Jets' head-coaching position and may ask out of his contract if he is bypassed for the job in favor of Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan or Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. However, the Jets are not obligated to release Schottenheimer and sources say they would prefer that Ryan or Spagnuolo, if hired, retain much of the offensive staff.

The Lions have the No. 1 pick in April, along with first- and third-round picks from the Dallas Cowboys, and need to find players to spark a turnaround.

Seifert: Lions A Disaster

Good luck, Jim Schwartz. You're going to need it. The Tennessee defensive coordinator, who accepted the Lions' offer Thursday and will be introduced Friday at Ford Field, is stepping into one of the biggest messes in the NFL, writes Kevin Seifert. Blog

• Blog network: NFL Nation

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 history of perhaps the NFL's worst franchise.

Lewand doubled over, then composed himself enough to avoid bursting out with laughter.

What isn't a joke, though, is how bad Detroit has been and how often it has failed to draft or acquire a viable, long-term option at quarterback.

Since winning a title in 1957 with Layne under center, the Lions have the same number of playoff victories as Pro Bowl quarterbacks: 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.

"There's no better feeling than turning a situation around," he has said.

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.

Lions fire Marinelli

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After the first 0-16 season in NFL history, the Detroit Lions parted ways with coach Rod Marinelli.

The Baltimore native became a candidate to be a head coach because of what he's done in Tennessee. His résumé and style led to interviews in previous years with Miami, Atlanta, Washington and San Francisco.

The Titans ranked in the top seven in yards allowed each of the past two seasons and finished second in points allowed per game at 14.6 in 2008. His 2003 defense ranked first in the NFL in rushing defense and led the league in third-down defense at 27.7 -- 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.

"It is rare in this league to get to spend 10 years with an assistant coach as we have with Jim," Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said in a statement. "In his eight years as our defensive coordinator, Jim has clearly put his stamp on that side of the ball. He is competitive, a tremendous communicator and motivator and in our opinion he has been ready for this next step for several years."

The leading candidate for Schwartz's defensive coordinator post is the Chiefs' Gunther Cunningham. The two coaches once worked together with the Titans.

Senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.