Schwartz: Lions learning to look forward
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Progress is measured a lot of different ways. Here is one: The Detroit Lions are 21-19 in their last 40 regular season games dating back to the end of the 2010 season. They were 4-36 in the previous 40 games.
Coach Jim Schwartz wasn't accepting any applause.
"We will probably classify that with, hadn't won in Washington in forever and stuff like that," he said. "I honestly don't know if that means anything to the players that are on the field. We don't carry around any banners that say we are 21-19.
"Obviously we are trying to improve. We are in an absolute race right now to correct mistakes, plug-in for injured guys, find out things we can rely on and things that we are good at, and every team in the league is the same way. "
The Lions, as Schwartz said, are only at the quarter pole of the NFL season. They are off to a 3-1 start and are 2-0 in the NFC North. But there is a lot of race still left to be run.
"Our focus is ahead and not what has been in the past," he said. "Our focus is a lot more immediate than that and that's just our personality."
That is probably a good way to go about it, especially since the most immediate business is playing the Packers in Green Bay. Even the most casual Lions observer can tell you that it's been since Dec. 15, 1991 that the Lions beat the Packers in Wisconsin; 21 straight losses.
But again, Schwartz isn't going to stress or be stressed about history.
"I think that it would certainly be a big win for us," he said. "Number one, it would be our fourth win of the year. Number two, it would make us 3-0 in our division. It would give us another chance to put a loss on a division opponent. We certainly want to end the streak, but that's not our rallying cry.
"Our rallying cry is (it's) Green Bay and division game. Those are the things that will mean more to the players."
As quirky as Lambeau Field can be, the problem for the Lions over the years hasn't necessarily been the venue.
"It's the 11 players that they're putting on the field," Schwartz said. "That's always thing that you're worried about. When we play at Minnesota, at Chicago and at Green Bay they're all tough places to play. I don't know if there is a place in the NFL that you would say is not a tough road game.
"You don't win or lose the game because of the name of the stadium or what happened in the past. You win because the 11 you're putting on the field and the 11 the opponents are putting on the field and who executes the best."
Schwartz was asked to assess the team after the first quarter of the season and he ticked off the 3-1 record, that they've already won two division games when they didn't win any last season; that the defense is forcing turnovers and scoring points which it didn't do last year, and the offense is showing more balance and explosiveness than the last two years.
"But," he added, "the last 12 games are not going to hinge on what happened in the first four. The first four are over with. Our job is to learn from them and move on. The teams that do the best job with that are the teams that will be successful over the long haul."
As with every team, the forecast is for stormy weather ahead - road games at Green Bay and Cleveland then home battles against Cincinnati and Dallas. But Schwartz said he thinks his team is better equipped to ride out storms than it was a year ago.
"We are going to have ups and downs and things we are going to have to deal with, but I think our personality as a team, we have been battle-tested in a lot of ways," he said. "We have been through some rough spots and I think we can lean on that as we go forward.
"I like the personality of our team when it comes to dealing with adversity, the inevitable adversity that comes for all 32 teams in the NFL."