New Lions coach Schwartz in spotlight at combine

It’s no surprise that Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was the man of the hour on Thursday. He’s the first-year man in Detroit who holds the top overall pick in the upcoming draft.

Schwartz was hit with a variety of questions during his podium time this morning, ranging from turning around the Lions to owning the draft’s first pick, the 2009 quarterback class, his coaching philosophy and Albert Haynesworth. The minute Schwartz exited stage left, he was surrounded by reporters, and a second impromptu session took place in the concourse.

Of all the questions Schwartz is facing with the rebuilding Lions, at the forefront are the questions at quarterback. The Lions have re-worked the contract of Daunte Culpepper, but Schwartz said he also expects fellow veteran Jon Kitna to be a part of the team’s offseason organized team activities (OTAs). Schwartz didn’t deny the Lions would be willing to pay a roster bonus that’s due to Kitna on March 1 and made it clear that the starting position hasn’t been promised to Culpepper, a player he noted he has no relationship with and has never even seen practice.

“I’ve been up front in my conversations with players,” Schwartz said. “Part of the whole dynamic of changing a team is that players need to prove themselves. There are no loyalties.”

Schwartz said the Lions are keeping their options open at quarterback. It looks like they’ll have plenty of options — as well as decisions to make — this offseason.

A couple of other notes from Schwartz:

  • If you’re trying to connect the dots between Schwartz and new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, there aren’t many to connect. Schwartz said he had no personal relationship with Linehan, but a recommendation by Nick Saban put him on the radar. Linehan was offensive coordinator in Minnesota and again in Miami — with Saban — before coaching the Rams.“He had a situation where he was going into a rebuilding team and did a really good job,” Schwartz said. “Saban spoke really highly of him and sort of put him on my list to interview. He really blew us away in the interview.”
  • Schwartz expects the Lions will run a 4-3 defense next season, but he’s never going to say never. He and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham both have backgrounds in that defense, and Schwartz believes that not only will the Lions have an easier transition to the new coaching staff by staying in the same scheme, but that the 4-3 fits the team’s current personnel as well.
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