May 24, 2016
Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has largely been seen as a guy rookie head coach Doug Pederson can lean on in his first season at the helm. And not just when it comes to the defensive side of the ball.
Sure, Schwartz has been given autonomy over the Birds' D, which will help take some of the stress off an offensively minded Pederson, but he is also in a rare position as a former NFL head coach working under a first-year head coach. In fact, Schwartz was already in his second season as Tennessee's defensive coordinator when he faced Pederson -- who was still backing up Brett Favre in Green Bay -- and the Packers in their 2002 preseason finale. [Pederson was 6-of-13 for 73 yards in that game, by the way.]
And by the time Pederson finally broke into the NFL in 2009 as an offensive quality control coach with the Eagles, after spending four years coaching high school football in Louisiana, Schwartz had already put in 15 years as a pro scout and climbed the ranks to earn his first head coaching job with the Detroit Lions. In his five years in Detroit, Schwartz went 29-51 and made the playoffs just once (which the Lions lost).
When the Eagles hired Schwartz earlier this offseason, they didn't hide the fact that his NFL head coaching experience played a role in their decision to add him to Pederson's staff after he spent the 2015 season away from coaching and instead working for the NFL's officiating department.
Just a few weeks into their offseason program, Pederson has already taken advantage of his assistant's experience because, unlike a certain former Eagles coach, he's adaptable and open-minded when it comes to scheme and personnel ... no matter the source.
"I think Doug is very good at using a lot of different resources," Schwartz said Tuesday. "We have a lot of different experiences on this staff. Some guys were here last year; that's valuable insight to have. I've been a head coach before; I think that's valuable insight to have. That's one of the good things about him -- he doesn't have much of an ego and he's open-minded when it comes to a lot different things."
But he hasn't just been listening to his assistants. A former player himself, Pederson wants to hear from his players -- and not just awkwardly walk past them in the halls of the NovaCare Complex.
"The same thing goes with players," Schwartz added. "I see him talking to players all the time and getting their input on things. I think that's all important. He's going to make his own decisions because he's his own man and is going to have to find his own way. But sometimes people can have a little different input or a little different experience that he might be able to draw from and he's not shy about asking anybody."
So what does Schwartz expect this year, based on his almost 25 years in the NFL?
"I think my experience has told me that every year is different," he said. "You can't judge one year on something else. Everybody picks things up at a different pace. The players are different. There's a different dynamic with different coaches. I think if you pre-judge anything and say, 'This is what's going to happen,' then you're on the wrong track. You've got to keep an open mind.
"It's hard to be patient in the NFL, but you have to be patient this time of year because we don't have any games scheduled several months. And the most important thing is making progress in technique and fundamentals and building a good foundation that you can draw on in September, draw on in December and January. I think that's the most important thing now.
"Everything else, you have to play it as it comes to you. You just have to judge everybody on this year and not what happened in the past."
In short, Schwartz believes that patience and the ability to adapt to things beyond your control -- both qualities he sees in Pederson -- are key for first-year NFL coaches.
Schwartz also talked about how much input he had in the draft process and gave a good answer about the role he and other assistants played in helping the scouts find the best players to fit their scheme:
"Obviously [how a prospect fits in our scheme] matters. You don't draft guys blindly ... I think our greatest input as coaches came probably before draft meetings. There was a lot of back and forth about what we were going to ask players to do and what kind of skill set we were looking for and what kind of criteria we were going to judge them on. And then the scouts could sort of use that lens to be able to see what those guys could do.
"The scouts had a very difficult job because they spent most of the college season -- all of the college season, particularly for defensive players -- scouting for a system that changed, and that's a very difficult situation. One of the very first things we did when we got here was sit down and go over a couple things and talk about -- you know, just blind of players and not about any particular player -- just in general what are players going to be asked to do. What kind of guys you've had success with, what kind of guys you've had failures with, and try to be able to mold and model what we're looking for. And that's sort of continuing now, and will continue all along the way.
"I don't think there's an NFL team where the coaches don't evaluate for the draft. But I think that a lot of times it's an affirmation of what the scout saw. Or it's a sign that we might need to do a little more work with this guy. I don't know any coaches that trump what the scouts have done, and I don't know any time in the NFL when scouts will draft guys that the coaches don't think are a very good fit. So it's a two-way street."
And here's the full video of Schwartz session with the media:
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