Posted January 25, 2014

Bills hire Jim Schwartz as their defensive coordinator

Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions
Jim Schwartz is back to doing what he does best -- coaching defense. (Rick Osentoski/AP)

Jim Schwartz is back to doing what he does best — coaching defense. (Rick Osentoski/AP)

To replace Mike Pettine, who accepted the position of head coach of the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, the Buffalo Bills have hired former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz to be their defensive coordinator.

“We are excited to add a talented and accomplished coordinator in Jim Schwartz to our staff,” Bills head coach Doug Marrone said in a statement.  “Schwartz has led aggressive and productive defensive units throughout his time in the NFL and we feel our defense will continue to improve under his leadership.”

The 47-year-old Schwartz had been the head man in Detroit since his hire on Jan. 15, 2009. He took over a team that had gone 0-16 in 2008 and managed a 29-51 record over five seasons before he was fired on Dec. 30-2013. 2011 was the team’s only winning season under Schwartz, and while he was given credit for turning that franchise around early on, the team’s 4-12 and 7-9 seasons in 2012 and 2013 sealed his fate. Reports indicated that some in the Lions’ front office wanted to let Schwartz go after the 2012 campaign.

“I think if you go back to 2009, we really were starting from the very bottom going 0-16 and hiring a new coach,” general manager Martin Mayhew said in the statement announcing Schwartz’s termination. “We’re not at that point right now. We think we’re further advanced than that. We think we’ve come a long way and Coach Schwartz brought us a long way, but we think it’s time for somebody to take over to put us over the hump and take us to the next step.”

Schwartz’s tenure in the Motor City was defined in part by underachievement and a lack of player discipline, but he’s always known how to coach defense. He was the linebackers coach for the Cleveland Browns from 1993-1995 under Bill Belichick and the Baltimore Ravens’ outside linebackers coach from 1996-1998 under Ted Marchibroda, but he really gained fame as the Tennessee Titans’ defensive coordinator from 2001-2008 under Jeff Fisher.

During Schwartz’s eight-year span as defensive coordinator in Tennessee, the Titans finished fifth in rushing yards allowed per game (103.5) and sixth in third down conversion rate (36.1%), allowing just nine rushers over 100 yards in 64 home games. But as a head coach, and despite a great deal of talent on the defensive line and in the linebacker corps, Schwartz could never get his Detroit defense over the top. They ranked 32nd in Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted metrics in Schwartz’s first year, moved up to 22nd in 2010 and ninth in 2011, but fell back to 24th in 2012 and finished 14th in 2013.

“Especially from a defensive lineman standpoint, we don’t usually pay attention to formations and down and distance,” former Titans and Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said of Schwartz in 2008. “He has that broken down for us. We know what to expect out of certain formations, and what plays they can run. It’s unusual for a defensive line. But we have a quiz in front of the whole defense on Friday, and he expects everybody to know that.”

“I know the way this business is; we all do,” Schwartz said about the many rumors regarding his job status following the Lions’ 14-13 season-ending loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 29. The Lions finished their season 1-6 after starting 6-3. “We can’t worry about decisions that we don’t make. We have to try our very best week in and week out and if we do, then we can accept any decision that’s made. I’d certainly like to be back, I think we have unfinished business here. We’ve come a long way in these years but we still have some ground that we can make and I’m anxious to have a chance to be able to do that.”

Schwartz has a degree in economics from Georgetown University and is one of the first coaches to embrace advanced metrics. He takes over a Bills defense that finished fourth in those same FO defensive metrics in 2013.

“Sometimes, that’s an easy thing for people in the media to use against you,” Schwartz once told the New York Times of his statistical approach. “ ‘Oh, yeah, he can’t adjust; he’s just a stats guy. They don’t really understand the game.’ That’s why sometimes, the whole stats thing is a dirty word.

“If you ask me, ‘Would you rather have a great fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants guy on Sunday, a guy who can dial up plays and he’d be the best in league, or a guy who is best in the league from Monday to Saturday preparing,’ I respect the guy who prepares. You’re not always going to be rolling 7, 7, 7 and be hot every week. But if you prepare well during the week, you’ll be consistent from week to week.”

12 comments
lucmizell
lucmizell

Wow, his wife must really love him. From the worst NFL city to arguably the second worst NFL city, at least as far as the weather is concerned.

trobbins88
trobbins88

Good Luck Gym Shorts!!  It was fun while it lasted.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

...and the Old Boy Network carousel of useless coaches just keeps a-turnin'.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@MidwestGolfFanSo this guy is never supposed to work in the NFL again?   And teams are supposed to go where to find new coaches and coordinators?

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@JoeCabot@MidwestGolfFan  

If a CEO ran his company into the ground, I'm guessing you'd screaming about injustice if he got hired as a senior VP for another company.  And you'd be right.

Schwartz (and a lot of other guys like him) have made it to the top in the NFL, and blown it.  Time to move on and give some new, probably younger guy a chance.  Lots of college and pro position coaches are probably yearning for a coordinator slot.  

There is no guaranteed right to work in one's chosen field.

MatthewEugeneHaag
MatthewEugeneHaag

@MidwestGolfFan @JoeCabot Joe keeps hitting the points I was going to.  You are going off the idea that if they were a bad HC then screw em and move on.  Thats silly.   Being a HC is a time consuming nightmare.  It pays well but for half the year you don't see your family.  Also who says a younger newer coordinator will be better than an old HC who was a great coordinator already?  Age and wisdom.  I find your arguement invalid on the basis that you have no definable proof that a newer coordinator would be better than a HC becoming a coordinator again.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@MidwestGolfFan According to your theory, out of the final four teams left standing in the NFL playoffs, NE should never have hired Bill Belichick, SEA should not have hired Pete Carroll, and a bunch of the assistants on those four teams should not have had jobs because their hirings would do nothing but bring mediocrity.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@KingMabel@JoeCabot@MidwestGolfFan 

I have to say, I find all of these responses interesting.

The fact is, Schwartz didn't do very well with the Lions, considering the talent they have.

As for the old, "Well, he's a good coordinator," I can appreciate that, but I think that if you've been to the top, and not done well, it's time to move aside and give other people a chance.  This is especially true if you're not hurting for money (presumably that describes fired head coaches with contract payoffs)

As for teams not wanting to take a chance on someone new and younger, that's where mediocrity comes from. 


KingMabel
KingMabel

@JoeCabot @MidwestGolfFan Dammit Joe,, you beat me by a millisecond.  


But seriously, why would a professional team take a chance with a college guy or position coach when they could hire someone who's already proven to have done exceptionally well in his specific field of expertise?  

KingMabel
KingMabel

@MidwestGolfFan @JoeCabot I know what you're saying, but Schwartz is a pretty good coordinator.   Some good (even great) coordinators just aren't meant to be Head coaches.  Some guys, like Norv Turner and Crennel get second chances at HC when they shouldn't.



JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@MidwestGolfFan Plenty of NFL coaches have proven to be excellent coordinators but not cut out to be head coaches.  Does not mean that they can't go back to being a successful coordinator.  Oh, and Jim Schwartz did not exactly run the Lions into the ground.  Are you aware of the team's history immediately prior to his arrival?