ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Jim Schwartz was hired to turn around the Detroit Lions and he did it for three seasons.
He failed to keep the Lions going in the right direction the next two years — and it cost him his job.
The Lions fired Schwartz on Monday, one day after their late-season slide ended with a loss at Minnesota. He had two years and nearly $12 million left on his contract.
Schwartz informed the players of the decision during a team meeting.
"I feel awful for him," Lions center Dominic Raiola said. "I feel like we let him down."
Team President Tom Lewand said the search has begun for what he thinks is one of the most — if not the most — attractive opportunities for a head coach in the NFL.
"I can verify that by the number of calls we have already gotten since the announcement was made," Lewand said. "Going through a thorough process is extremely important. That doesn't necessarily it has to be a long process."
The Lions also let offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and wide receivers coach Tim Lappano seek other jobs, saying the rest of the staff is under contract, including some assistants for the 2014 season.
Detroit flopped to a 7-9 record this year after a 6-3 record start put the franchise in a position to win a division title for the first time since 1993.
"That is the reason we are sitting here having this conversation," Lewand said.
Schwartz was 29-51 over five seasons, including a 10-6 mark in 2011 that lifted the Lions to their only postseason appearance this century. The former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator was hired in 2009 when Detroit was coming off the NFL's first 0-16 season.
"Jim inherited a very tough job," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew acknowledged.
Schwartz led the Lions to two wins in his first year, six the next and to double digits in victories two years ago for the first time since 1995 to help them end an 11-year postseason drought.