Tuesday, February 4, 2014
The inside scoop on Jim Schwartz
By Mike Rodak
What's the skinny on Schwartz?
We recently chatted with ESPN Detroit Lions reporter Michael Rothstein about Jim Schwartz, who was introduced last week as the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills.
Here's Rothstein's perspective, having covered Schwartz in his final season as Lions head coach:
Mike Rodak: Jim Schwartz told reporters last Monday that he couldn’t put a label on his defensive scheme and that it would be opponent-specific. Did that hold true in Detroit? Or did they follow the same general strategy each week?
Don't expect the Bills to blitz much under Jim Schwartz.
Michael Rothstein: They appeared to stick with the same strategy most weeks. They only blitzed 19.6 percent of the time -- third-least in the NFL. A lot of that had to do with Detroit's front four and the talent the Lions had up there, though. That said, the run defense was superb this season. Other than a couple of big plays early in the season and LeSean McCoy's snow-filled day of fun on the ice in Philadelphia, the Lions' run defense was incredibly stout. Despite it being Gunther Cunningham's defense, I really believe Schwartz had a major hand in that.
Rodak: The expectation is that the Bills will blitz significantly less under Schwartz than they did under Mike Pettine. How well did the front line generate pressure without help from linebackers?
Rothstein: The front line did a decent job of generating pressure, but didn't actually register quarterback sacks all that much. Toward the end of the season, Detroit began to blitz some more with linebackers and safeties, but if Schwartz thinks he has the talent up front to generate pressure, he'll use the front four to try and dominate the game. Having Mario Williams certainly is a start. If fans want to get an idea of the best-case scenario for the Schwartz defense, check out the Thanksgiving game this season against Green Bay. The Lions were at their best defensively in that game. But they weren't consistent enough.
Rodak: What kind of personality are the Bills getting in Schwartz? Do you see him easily making the transition back to being a coordinator?
Rothstein: Schwartz is a fiery personality, something that came through over and over again during his tenure as a head coach -- from chasing Jim Harbaugh after a handshake-gone-awry to yelling at the fans during the final home game in Detroit. That said, he is a very intelligent man and a good coordinator. My guess is he will be out to prove he is a good coach -- you got that feeling in his news conference -- and I expect you'll see that the next couple of years. I'd imagine the two games in Detroit this season will be a bit extra for him, as well. But I'd bet he'll be working harder so he can get another head coaching shot.
Rodak: What went wrong for Schwartz with the Lions? What is the general view of him among fans and reporters?
Rothstein: The obvious is the team didn't win enough, but it went beyond that with a franchise that hardly ever wins. It was the way his teams fell apart at the end of seasons -- again, that is not an issue exclusive to Schwartz among Lions coaches -- but it did him in. If Detroit had made the playoffs, he'd likely still be the Lions' coach.
That said, his personality could rub some people the wrong way and that certainly didn't help him toward the end. Yelling at fans in the home finale essentially sealed how they felt about him, and they won't forget that. It's a shame for him because in some ways he did what he was supposed to do in Detroit. He took over a team that went 0-16 the year before, gave them confidence and swagger, took them to the playoffs and turned expectations around a bit. So in that way, his tenure was a success. He just couldn't do enough to take the Lions beyond that point.