Jim Schwartz returns to Cleveland as Browns defensive coordinator after breaking in as a scout under Bill Belichick in 1993.
Jim Schwartz was the most logical and best choice to take over Browns defense
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.
Takeaways from hiring of Jim Schwartz as Browns defensive coordinator …
1. From the moment the Browns let go of Joe Woods I felt Jim Schwartz was the most logical replacement. Not because he got his start as a personnel scout for Bill Belichick with the Browns in the mid-1990s. But for the following reasons: A. He’s a proven, successful defensive coordinator who has always run a 4-3 scheme that emphasizes pressure from his defensive linemen. Everywhere Schwartz has worked, his team has prioritized its resources on defense on the defensive line, secondary and linebackers – in that order – same as what’s been done with the Browns the past three seasons. B. Long before team owners devoted millions of dollars to creating analytics departments, Schwartz was ahead of his time in using advanced statistical analysis as a tool, primarily in game-planning. C. GM Andrew Berry spent the 2019 season in Philadelphia mentoring under Howie Roseman while Schwartz was Eagles coordinator. No doubt in his interaction with Schwartz, Berry realized that Schwartz, a Georgetown University graduate with a degree in economics, speaks the same language as fellow Ivy Leaguers Kevin Stefanski and Paul DePodesta and would not be intimidated or threatened by the enormous influence analytics has in the Browns’ building. D. With Schwartz’s experience and track record, Stefanski could be comfortable empowering Schwartz with most, if not all, decisions on the defensive side. This is exactly the same set-up as in Philadelphia when Roseman partnered Schwartz with rookie head coach Doug Pederson. This is not to say that Berry was totally behind this hire. Stefanski’s been around the NFL long enough to know Schwartz’s reputation and likely came to the conclusion on his own that Schwartz was a perfect fit.
2. While Schwartz, 56, does not have the imposing demeanor of Brian Flores, who was the only other reasonable choice among the five candidates for the job, he proved he can control dominant personalities such as Albert Haynesworth, Jevon Kearse, Ndamukong Suh and Malcolm Jenkins. Schwartz isn’t a get-in-your-face coach, such as Gregg Williams, under whom he broke in with Tennessee in 1999. But he uses his cerebral approach to motivate and discipline his players.
3. A former NFL personnel executive said this about Schwartz: “Schwartz is the smartest coach I’ve been around in 25 years. Rare. Huge ego but self-depracating. Actually, he is very likable. Myles Garrett should beg them to hire him. He will have 20 sacks. As smart as he is, he is old school. He understands that if [the Browns] have a 210-pound linebacker, they will run the ball at him.”
4. Schwartz’s hire pretty much guarantees that defensive tackle will be a high priority in Berry’s fourth transaction season. While Schwartz is noted for espousing the “wide 9” defensive alignment, where the ends line up extra wide to give them a running start at direct angles at the quarterback, his defenses always have fielded prominent defensive tackles, e.g., Haynesworth, Suh, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave. Schwartz’s philosophy mirrors that which has been apparent in three years with Woods – pass pressure comes primarily from the defensive front and blitzing is rare. It’s just that Schwartz has employed much better tackles than the Browns have had under Woods, so there was even less reason to blitz. Under Schwartz, the run defense is second priority, though he never bought in to the extra-light, extra-mobile linebacker philosophy. So it will be interesting to see if he has influence to overrule the analytics department and get some bigger linebackers on the team.
5. Schwartz’s defensive teams ranked in the top 10 in yards in 2007 and 2008 with Tennessee, 2014 with Buffalo, and 2017 and 2019 with Philadelphia. They’ve ranked in the top 10 in points allowed in 2007 and 2008 with Tennessee, 2014 with Buffalo, and 2017 with Philadelphia.
6. Schwartz’s lone stint as a head coach with the Detroit Lions from 2009-13 wasn’t as bad as his 29-51 record looks. He took over the NFL’s first 0-16 team, and went 2-14 his first season playing No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford at quarterback from the start. One of the Lions’ two wins in Schwartz’s first season was a walk-off, 38-37 thriller over Eric Mangini’s Browns. The Lions improved to 6-10 in Schwartz’s second season and then made the NFC playoffs with a 10-6 record in his third year. They were smoked, 45-28, in a wild card game by Drew Brees and the Saints. The Lions were 4-12 and 7-9 in Schwartz’s last two seasons. In Schwartz’s five seasons, the Lions used first-round picks on defensive linemen three times. They took Suh second overall in 2010, defensive tackle Nick Fairley (a bust) 13th in 2011, and pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah fifth in 2013.
7. The Eagles won the Super Bowl over New England in Schwartz’s second season as defensive coordinator in 2017. After two 9-7 seasons and then a 4-11-1 fourth-place finish in 2020, Pederson and his staff were happy to disband. By then, Pederson and Schwartz had had enough of GM Roseman meddling with coaching decisions and staff changes.
8. Schwartz, who still had a home in Nashville, TN, joined the staff of Mike Vrabel with the Tennessee Titans as a senior defensive assistant in 2021. Vrabel never fully explained Schwartz’s role publicly and Schwartz never was made available to media in two seasons with the Titans. The year before Schwartz hopped aboard, the Titans’ defense ranked 24th in points and 28th in yards allowed. With Schwartz in a part-time consulting role, the defense was sixth and 14th in points, and 12th and 23rd in yards allowed.