(Reuters) - Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz is reluctant to describe his team’s fading season as one of “failure”, saying he was proud of the way his players kept battling as their fortunes dipped.
The Lions go into Sunday’s regular season finale against the Vikings in Minnesota with a 7-8 record, having made a promising 6-3 start to their campaign before their momentum stalled.
“As a head coach standing up here, I have a hard time going down into our locker room with our players and calling them and calling us a failure,” Schwartz told reporters on Monday.
“It is not what I believe. When I hear the word failure, I hear abject failure. Like nothing goes right. I’m still proud of our team. Our team comes to battle and they play through the game, we just come up and play short.
“Maybe my connotation of the word is a lot stronger than what you guys are thinking. We haven’t accomplished what we wanted to accomplish and I’ll just leave it at that.”
The Lions, who have not won their division since 1993, watched their playoff hopes disappear in a 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Giants on Sunday.
That defeat dropped Schwartz’s overall record to 29-50 since he took over as head coach of Detroit in 2009.
“We didn’t make the playoffs and I think that’s obviously anybody’s goal when they go in,” Schwartz said. “We didn’t achieve that goal, but I don’t know if I’d be as strong to call it a failure.”
Asked whether he felt his own record in Detroit was good enough for him to stay on as coach, Schwartz replied: “I don’t know, that’s not for me to decide. Everybody else can write it.
“I don’t know if I want to go there. I know where we were when I took over and I know where we are right now. We’re still working, we’re still battling, we still have another game to play this year.”
In his first season as head coach, Schwartz guided the Lions to a disappointing 2-14 record but in 2011 they improved considerably, going 10-6 as they returned to the postseason for the first time since 1999.
Schwartz expressed regret for his actions late in Sunday’s game against the Giants when he turned away from the field and shouted at the fans after a chorus of boos had rained down in response to Detroit’s tactics.
With 23 seconds left and two timeouts on his own 25-yard line, Schwartz decided to run out the clock and opt for overtime instead of trying to position for a game-winning field goal in regulation.
“I probably should have done just what I did at the end of the second quarter and just kept it in my mind and said, ‘Why are people booing with four seconds left in the half?’” Schwartz explained.
“I just wanted to say, ‘Don’t you know what the situation is and the risk reward of doing something other than what we did right there?’
“That probably would be it if you were to label it a regret. Just don’t verbalize it, just keep it back in there.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford