DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions already have begun the process of looking for a replacement for Jim Schwartz, and general manager Martin Mayhew said the team's next head coach will have one overriding criteria.
"It's bigger than Xs and Os," Mayhew said. "It's bigger than scheme, it's bigger than that. This guy has to be a leader and has to be able to lead our team."
The Lions fired Schwartz on Monday after losing six of their final seven games to finish a disappointing 7-9. They blew fourth-quarter leads in all six of their November and December defeats and squandered an opportunity to win their first division title in 20 years.
Mayhew said late-season slides each of the last two seasons -- the Lions lost their final eight games in last year's 4-12 debacle -- were a big part of the reason to dismiss Schwartz, and that the next coach has to be "somebody that can bring that belief that we're going to get over the hump."
"It has to be the right fit and that's a lot of different things," Mayhew said. "We'll talk about a lot of different criteria in terms of finding the right person. Obviously, experience as a head coach is important. It doesn't matter what side of the ball it is. I also think we have to take into account a coach's ability to change our culture a little bit. It has to be something bigger than just scheme that somebody's bringing to our table."
Lions president Tom Lewand said the team's profile for the right head coach is significantly different from the one they used when they hired Schwartz as a first-time head coach in 2009.
The Lions were coming off the NFL's first ever 0-16 season at the time and had a roster bereft of talent.
Now, they have the game's best receiver in Calvin Johnson, a Pro Bowl defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh and a 25-year-old quarterback in Matthew Stafford who the organization still believes can be one of the best in the game.
"We talked about building a profile for the Detroit Lions in 2014, and there's a lot that goes into that." Lewand said. "A lot. And there is a detailed profile. It's not abstract. There is a written, detailed profile of what the head coach of the Detroit Lions in 2014 needs to look like and it's got a lot of specifics. It's got football specifics in it. It's got specific characteristics in it and we'll manage to that process and to that design."
Mayhew said prior head-coaching experience is "certainly a factor" when it comes to picking he next head coach.
"I would not say that's going to be a determining factor, but it's a factor that we have to consider in terms of where we believe our team is right now and our ability to win right now," he said.
Scheme also will play a role, Mayhew said.
The Lions have built their roster for 4-3 defense and stocked the passing game with weapons like Stafford, Johnson and running back Reggie Bush. Going to a 3-4 defense, Mayhew said, would require an overhaul that the organization would be hesitant to make.
"We have not ruled out anybody, but certainly a coach that runs a 4-3 would be more attractive based on the scheme," he said.
Lewand said he heard from a number of coach's agents shortly after the organization announced Schwartz's firing around noon, and that the Lions have "one of the most, if not the single most, attractive head-coaching opportunity in the National Football League."
Lewand declined to put a timetable on making a hire, but with five other openings around the league -- the Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns and Washington also have fired their coaches this year -- things could move quickly.
"I think we can be thorough, I think we can be expedient and I think we can be efficient," he said. "There's no more pressure than finding the right person who can help us reach our goals in 2014. The goal isn't to hire the biggest name or the most popular candidate and win the next press conference, it's to win football games in 2014 and win a championship."
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