Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz has taken a lot of heat this season from those outside of the organization.
He is the general of a 4-8 team that is widely considered to be underachieving, and has its play – and integrity – questioned often, buoyed by its fair share of on and off-the-field issues.
Yet in spite the external stones being flung at the Lions bench boss, there are still plenty of supporters.
One comes in the unlikely form of a divisional foe: Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings.
“They have a good coach over there,” said the Michigan native earlier this week. “I’ve had a chance of meeting him personally. I think he does a great job with getting those guys prepared to play and they play with kind of his attitude and his character.”
The reason that Jennings’ comments may come as a surprise is because he has formerly been critical of the Lions, calling out their lack of discipline during the offseson.
“In the past they have struggled with it and I think (Schwartz) has done a great job of getting them to kind of hone in on what he wants them to be like on the field as well as off the field,” said Jennings. “What he stands for, he’s a feisty guy, he wants them to be feisty but he wants them to play within the rules. I think he’s doing a great job of getting them to do that. Sometimes when you’re that way as a coach and you want your players to play that way on the field, you’re going to get penalized so you have to accept those penalties that you get. But they’re a fiery bunch of guys and they play with an edge and you have to be on your P’s and Q’s when you’re playing them.”
Jennings isn’t only speaking from an outsider’s perspective. The Kalamazoo Central High School grad and Western Michigan University standout said he’s had the opportunity to get to know Schwartz throughout the offseason.
“Well it was like we were showing up at every event together,” said Jennings. “He came down to Kalamazoo and spoke at a Big Brothers, Big Sisters event and everyone had great things to say. I wasn’t actually there. And then I was able to speak with him at - I want to say - the NFL new awards show that they do at the end of the year. But just a great guy. You can see what he’s done. Being a Lions fan as a kid, you can see the dynamic, the changes that he’s made. He hasn’t been able to win a substantial amount of games but you can see the direction is being shifted.”
The record may not reflect what Jennings is saying but the respect he has for Schwartz and the Lions isn’t exclusive.
“Well, they’re definitely a very good football team,” said Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. “They got a ton, ton of talent. Definitely is a playoff caliber team coming off of last year. Everybody has their ups and downs and this is a tough League. Our division is the toughest division in football.”