ALLEN PARK, Mich. — With the Detroit Lions having lost five of their past six games and falling from first place in the NFC North to out of the playoff picture with a game remaining, embattled coach Jim Schwartz expressed disappointment on Monday.
He wouldn’t, however, deem the team’s season a failure.
“We didn’t make the playoffs and it’s obviously anybody’s goal when they go in, so we didn’t achieve that goal,” Schwartz said. “But I don’t know if I’d be as strong as to call it a failure. That was the word you used. I don’t know if I’d be as strong to call it that.
“I think I said — maybe at the halfway point, maybe even after four games I think — that the tale of this team would be in the second half of the season, and we haven’t done a good enough job. It’s been the quintessential close but no cigar.”
Schwartz said he looks at the word failure as “abject failure,” when everything goes wrong, not just enough to see a team drop five of six games, with all of the losses coming after the Lions led in the fourth quarter.
In Sunday’s 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Giants, Schwartz turned and spoke indirectly to fans at Ford Field after the Lions (7-8) ran a trap play and then took a knee to head to overtime instead of taking a shot downfield with 23 seconds left in regulation.
After the game, Schwartz said he was trying to pump up his team for overtime and was disappointed that fans were booing. On Monday, he acknowledged he was reacting to fans’ frustrations with the game — and the season.
“Really it wasn’t directed … I didn’t grab the microphone and make a crowd announcement,” Schwartz said. “But it was a situation that, from a coaching standpoint, we looked at that situation and we’ve had similar times in the past where we’ve run a very similar play to that and broken free and got yards and taken a timeout and had a shot at the field goal or a shot at the end zone.”
Schwartz said his reaction to the boos wasn’t meant as a “slight” to fans, and he described the situation as “just fans being fans.” He also deflected a question about whether his bosses — general manager Martin Mayhew or the team’s owners — have said anything to him about the outburst.
Why is somebody booing when it is four seconds left in the half? Don’t they know what the situation is and the risk/reward of doing something other than what we did right there?
— Lions coach Jim Schwartz,
on fans at the team’s home finale Sunday
He said he’d thought about saying something to fans at the end of the first half but kept quiet.
“It doesn’t make us think any less of [fans who booed],” Schwartz said. “I certainly don’t think any less of them because of it. But our thoughts were going to overtime and trying to get a good plan for overtime and trying to come out with that win.
“We knew that we’d need them there and [hoped] they would be on our side, which they were.”
So, no regrets?
“Well, I probably should have done just like I did at the end of the second quarter and just kept it in my mind,” Schwartz said. “Just kept it in my mind, like why is somebody booing when it is four seconds left in the half? Don’t they know what the situation is and the risk/reward of doing something other than what we did right there?
“So that would probably be, if you were going to label it a regret, yeah, just don’t verbalize it. Just keep it back in there.”
Sunday’s loss eliminated the Lions from the playoff contention, completing a collapse for the second straight season. In 2012, Detroit lost its final eight games.
“We’ve come up short the last two years,” Schwartz said. “I don’t think there’s any question of that.”
The main question in Detroit now — how much longer Schwartz will keep his job — is an area the coach would not address Monday.
He said he speaks with Mayhew daily and that their conversations have not been different from previous weeks. He declined to be more specific.
- Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
- Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette