When news broke earlier this week that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was a candidate for Cleveland’s head coaching job, Birds fans took to Twitter with their usual reasoned responses:
“Why does anyone think he’s any good?” wrote one keyboard wit. “His scheme is horrible. He’s just an ego guy. He stinks.”
“I’ll pay his bus fare,” wrote another. “Too bad he can’t go to Dallas and ruin them.”
There was dozens less kind (or clever) than that. It’s clear the fan base in Philly has no affection for the 53-year-old Schwartz, who has served as defensive coordinator since being hired the same day as head coach Doug Pederson four years ago.
So allow me to take the unpopular stand here. Be careful what you wish for. Replacing Schwartz will be no easy task.
The Eagles have played six postseason games in these past four seasons. Schwartz’s defense allowed 20 or fewer points in five, including last week’s 17-9 loss to Seattle. The outlier, of course, is Super Bowl LII, where they beat the Patriots 41-33 — a score emblazoned on half the bumper stickers in the Delaware Valley.
Do you need more stats? (Credit Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports, who did the math). Since Schwartz was given total control over the defense, here are some four-year rankings:
Points allowed: 7th best of 32 teams
Rushing yards allowed: 1st
First downs allowed: 2nd
Third-down percentage allowed: 3rd
He’s done this despite a rash of injuries and a paucity of resources. Consider 2019, when the Eagles top three draft picks and nearly every free-agent dollar was earmarked to buttressing the offense. Schwartz’s only major offseason addition, DT Malik Jackson, injured his foot in the opener and missed the season.
Let’s also give the defensive coordinator credit for getting the best out of an aging Malcolm Jenkins. As Jenkins — a great player and a better man — lost his speed, Schwartz was smart enough to convert him from safety to a valuable hybrid linebacker.
All of that doesn’t sell to Philadelphia fans, who condemn Schwartz for a lack of guts. This is a fan base raised on Buddy Ryan and Jim Johnson, both of whom would sic seven attackers on the opposing QB on any play.
Schwartz has always been more about the four-man rush and giving support to his secondary. True, he dialed up the blitz more than ever in 2019, but no one characterizes his scheme as aggressive. Eagles fans demand aggressive.
Schwartz can be gruff and standoffish. He’ll never win a Mr. Congeniality contest. He doesn’t present well, and I’ll be stunned if he lands that head coaching gig in Cleveland.
Which means he’ll be back with the Eagles. Except . . .
Except that in Wednesday’s long-and-winding news conference, Pederson gave a less-than-glowing forecast for Schwartz. After fully embracing the 2020 return of some of the more dubious assistants on his staff, Pederson was vague about Schwartz’s future.
“I’m excited for him and his (Cleveland) opportunity,” Pederson said. “I wish him the best.”
But, if not Cleveland, is Schwartz coming back?
“He’ll be on the plane back here at some point after the interview.”
Reporters pressed, and Pederson moved a little, saying he “assumed” Schwartz would stay. Still, the head coach gave far less than the embrace he offered to offensive coordinator Mike Groh and assistant Carson Walch, who coached a dismal wide receiving corps.
Of course, we learned Thursday that Pederson was just lying at the time — as the Eagles let go of both of those underachieving coaches. So, who knows what to believe from Doug right now?
We’ll see. It seems there’s a likelihood Schwartz will move on – Browns job or not. And I’ll say it one more time, Eagles fans: Be careful what you wish for.