The mystery of Jim Schwartz's contract

When the Detroit Lions announced a new "multi-year" contract for coach Jim Schwartz last month, we wondered why details of the terms had not emerged and if the team was glossing over a failure to lock Schwartz down for the long term.

After all, a "multi-year" agreement could have been as simple as giving Schwartz a raise in 2012 and extending his original contract one year beyond its original expiration, to the 2013 season. That short-term fix would push the sides right back to the negotiating table next year.

Schwartz wouldn't offer any details during a Thursday news conference. But as Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press points out, Schwartz insisted the decision to sit on the details was his, and compared it to his policy on limiting injury information.

"[Y]ou've got to be consistent in that approach, and it's the same thing with this," Schwartz said. "If we say, 'Hey, I'm not talking about contract,' then I'm not talking about it. You can't talk about it after it's done, with a big grin on your face. That's just it."

Schwartz also said his contract is "personal to me."

I get what Schwartz is saying, but to me there is a difference between Schwartz's salary terms and the length of the deal. The former is absolutely personal, and there are other NFL coaches -- including Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots -- whose exact compensation has never been reported. But the length of a coach's contract is a fairly standard piece of information, one that teams usually announce as a reassurance to fans that the franchise has reached a level of stability by signing a successful head coach for a certain number of years.

Belichick is the only NFL coach I'm aware of whose contract is surrounded in such mystery. Schwartz is close with Belichick, so it's possible he has simply followed the philosophical path of a mentor. Of course, Belichick's multiple championships put him in a unique position of authority over his agreement with the team.

There are two possibilities to explain why we don't know how long Schwartz is under contract for. It's either a near-fanatical display of principle from Schwartz or an attempt to avoid the publicity that goes with a coach whose contract suggests he'll be at the bargaining table twice in a period of two or three years.

So unless and until the information surfaces, I think we should retain some level of suspicion about what Schwartz's "multi-year" contract really means.