When the Philadelphia Eagles hired Doug Pederson to be their next head coach, one of the first calls Pederson made was to Jim Schwartz. Schwartz was spending a year working out of the NFL officiating offices to assist with his coach’s eye. Pederson wanted Schwartz to be his defensive coordinator, and Schwartz was quickly brought on board the newly formed staff in Philadelphia.
It happened so quickly, Schwartz was in Philadelphia for Pederson’s introductory press conference. In two years on the job as defensive coordinator, Schwartz has reworked the Eagles defense from being on a bit of a hot seat last fall to one of the hottest coordinators in the game.
Could Schwartz now be lining up a potential shot to return to being a head coach for the first time since 2013? If so, Schwartz is not entertaining the question publicly.
Just north of Philadelphia this week, the New York Giants fired Ben McAdoo as head coach to officially put themselves on the market for a new head coach. The Giants job is one that will attach a number of good names to the coaching rumor mill, and Schwartz has already had his name thrown out there by some as a potential candidate for the job. At least for now, Schwartz wants no part of his name going through that news cycle.
Jim Schwartz gets asked about possibly being a head coaching question. He elects to not answer.
— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) December 5, 2017
“I’ll pass on that question. We have enough to get ready for the Rams, and I think it does nobody any good to mention that,” Schwartz said this week as the Eagles prepare for this weekend’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. “There is really no right way to answer that. If you answer it and say, ‘Yes,’ then your eyes are on the wrong thing. You answer it and say, ‘No,’ then people — it’s just not the right time or place to talk about that stuff.”
There have been no actual rumblings suggesting the Giants have expressed interest in Schwartz, and it is unknown if he will be on any call list from the Giants re-worked front office as the franchise looks to dig out of a deep hole before rebuilding. The Giants may ultimately favor having a coach with an offensive mindset anyway, and if they can find a coach with some winning experience on the sideline, that would be a huge perk.
After 20 years in football as an assistant coach in college and in the NFL, Schwartz got his first head coaching gig in 2009 with the Detroit Lions. A small branch of the Bill Belichick coaching tree (Schwartz was a personal scout for Belichick with the Cleveland Browns from 1993 through 1995), Schwartz had established himself as one of the top defensive coaches in the game, and the Lions took a chance with making him the head coach.
The results in Detroit were not so overwhelming with a record of 29-51 over five seasons. Just once did the Lions finish above .500, and that 2010 season ended with a loss to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Wild Card. After being let go at the end of a 7-9 season, Schwartz got back to his roots as a defensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills in 2014 under former Bills coach Doug Marrone. After Marrone was fired, new Bills coach Rex Ryan opted not to retain Schwartz on his staff, sending Schwartz into NFL purgatory until the call from Pederson came his way.
The 2017 season has been a redemption year for Schwartz as he has transformed the Eagles defense into one of the best defenses in the NFL. The identity of the Eagles defense has been given a fresh look under Schwartz’s leadership on the sideline. It did not quite happen over night. The 2016 season was a bit of a transition year for everyone on the Eagles defense, but there were glimpses to suggest Schwartz was laying the groundwork for a vastly improved defense. Now, in 2017, the Eagles defense is playing a bit of smash-mouth defense and the swagger has been running wild as a result.
A year after being the 13th-ranked defense in the NFL, the Eagles are currently the third-best in the league. Teams are passing and running for fewer yards per game this season compared to a year ago. The Eagles are also holding opponents to fewer than 20 points per game this season. Carson Wentz may be playing like an MVP candidate, but Schwartz has had just as important an impact on the fortune of the 2017 Eagles on the way to an NFC East Division championship.
The momentum of the Eagles defense hit a bit of a roadblock in Seattle on Sunday night against the Seahawks, as Russell Wilson toyed with them at times. Schwartz said after the game the Seattle game was one of the worst defensive performances he has had in Philadelphia, and he was not afraid to suggest there was no player on the defense that would feel they played a good game. Sometimes, a comment like that could lead to a bit of turmoil on the team, but Schwartz and the defensive players have connected on a level that has led to Schwartz’s comments to be viewed as constructive criticism.
“He wished he could have certain calls back, just like we wish we could have certain plays back,” defensive end Brandon Graham said, according to Sports Illustrated. “When he holds us accountable, and he also holds himself accountable, that goes a long way.”
Winning sure helps overcome comments like this being viewed in a much more negative light in the locker room. Schwartz has earned the respect of his players, and that goes a long way. And because of that, he has been one of the top coordinators in the NFL. But the question remains. Does this all lead to Schwartz potentially becoming a head coach elsewhere in the near future?