In sifting through the mountains of rookie camp coverage over the weekend, I stumbled upon this video from the Detroit Lions' reporting team of Tim Twentyman and Mike O'Hara. Toward the end, the pair addressed an issue that brought up two interesting questions:
Is there anything to read into the fact that Lions coach Jim Schwartz hasn't yet signed a long-promised contract extension?
If not, at what point is it significant that Schwartz's contract, at least of this moment, is set to expire after this season, or in about 10 months?
From the top, we should point out that coaching contracts are among the best-kept secrets in the NFL. There is no salary cap for coaches, nor is there a union, so teams don't have to file the final documents with many outside entities. News releases are typically issued to announce a new deal, although they often don't include the duration and never mention dollar figures.
Schwartz reiterated over the weekend that he won't talk about his contract, nor will he say if he would confirm a deal if it had happened. Regardless, it's probably safe to assume the Lions don't yet have a final agreement with Schwartz. That doesn't really matter at the moment, and to me it won't be an issue until the first day of training camp -- the symbolic start of a team's season.
There is every reason to think the sides will come to an agreement. If you judge coaches by playoff appearances, Schwartz is the Lions' best coach in more than a decade. And unless Schwartz has previously undisclosed designs on some sort of dual general manager/coaching job that wouldn't be available in Detroit, there is every reason to think he wants to stay put.
Those factors suggest a friendly negotiation that will wrap up in due time. But if Schwartz and the Lions report to training camp in late July to begin earnest preparations for the 2012 season without a resolution, then there is reason to start asking fair and legitimate questions about the future.
For what it's worth, the past three coaching contract extensions in the NFC North all came at least 11 months before the deal's expiration.
With his deal set to expire after the 2011 season, Bears coach Lovie Smith signed a two-year extension in February 2011. Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy's five-year extension came in March 2011; his contract was scheduled to expire after the 2012 season. And in November 2009, former Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress received an extension about 13 months before his deal was set to expire.