EAST LANSING, Mich. – After losing 24 of his first 28 games as Detroit's coach, Jim Schwartz remained as upbeat as possible.
Finally, his patience was rewarded when the Lions won four straight games to finish last season.
In those four short weeks, Detroit began repairing the perception of a franchise that went winless in 2008, the year before Schwartz was brought in. Now the Lions have young standouts Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh, players that will try to lead this team back to respectability after an atrocious decade.
"We were the only team in the history of the National Football League to go 0-16. To be at the point now where we were competitive in every game ... We need to stay on that track. We don't need to change course," Schwartz said. "My perception, sort of going back, looking at the Lions from the outside in, was the Lions would always change courses and overreact."
Schwartz spoke Thursday as a guest at a Michigan AP Sports Editors meeting. He avoided discussing too many controversial topics, such as the collective bargaining negotiations, but he did spend some time looking back at an encouraging finish to the season.
Detroit was 2-10 before beating eventual champion Green Bay to start a season-ending upswing. The Lions also won at Tampa Bay to snap a 26-game road losing streak, then followed that up with a comeback victory at Miami.
"We were 10 points down with four minutes to go at Miami and beat them by seven. That's like a magic trick. That's tough to do," Schwartz said. "If you looked at us over the course of the season, I don't know if there were very many times the same thing got us more than once. We learned from some situations, and we hadn't been in a lot of those situations before."
Even in its defeats, Detroit was competitive despite injuries to quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Lions led the New York Jets by 10 points late in regulation but ended up losing in overtime in early November.
This could be a quiet offseason for the Lions even if there's no lockout — they're finally at a point where they don't necessarily need to overhaul the roster.
"You need to be able to distinguish between when you're close and you're making progress and you're doing the right things, and when you're all screwed up," Schwartz said. "I tended to look at 2-10 as — we were really close and we were making progress."
Schwartz provided a brief update on Stafford, who had surgery on his throwing shoulder last month after making only three starts last season — two of which he didn't finish. True to form, Schwartz didn't give many details, but the Lions have said they expect the former No. 1 draft pick to be back in time for training camp.
"In a nutshell, Matt's doing fine," Schwartz said. "Whether he didn't have surgery or he did, we were still on the same timetable. ... I don't want to say he's on track because in the offseason, there's no real track, it's more just getting back."
Schwartz did take some time to explain why he doesn't like to speak definitively about injuries. He recalled one season when he was on Jeff Fisher's staff with the Tennessee Titans, and Jevon Kearse was hurt. Schwartz said Fisher was forthcoming about Kearse's injury, saying he'd be out four to six weeks.
But Kearse didn't heal as quickly as expected and came under criticism as a result.
"Jevon was trying his very best to come back," Schwartz said. "Jeff learned, and at that point, when he talked about it, he said, 'I'm never, ever going to put a timetable on somebody's return, because I screwed the kid.'"