Thursday, January 15, 2009

Detroit Lions Hire Jim Schwartz!

I'm sure that by this late hour, all of my regular readers are well aware that the Lions pulled the trigger on hiring Jim Schwartz as the new Head Coach of the Lions. I like the choice, and have said a bit about why earlier.

There is, as can be expected, plenty of thoughts out there on the matter. Drew Sharp, whose little black cloud of doom appears to have left town with Matt Millen, likes the choice -- and makes the great point that the staff Schwartz assembles will be just as, if not more important, than he is. has a press release (copied dutifully at ESPN,,, and other places with small variations) and I'm sure we will know more after tomorrow's presser.

Jeff Fisher indicated that he thinks Schwartz has been ready for the next step for a few years, and he can afford to be gracious because he is one of the NFL's best, and he already has a couple of good in-house replacements for Schwartz. Schwartz has been coming in second in HC interviews after talking to about 2-3 teams for the last 2 or 3 years, so his landing a position is no surprise to the Titans.

Despite early jump-on-the-bandwagon of a QB #1 fans out there (still way too early to look at that yet) thinking Schwartz's Bobby Layne comments means a #1 QB overall, Dave Birkett points out that may not be the case. I'll add that Schwartz is a statistics guy -- which means he knows all too well how the percentages don't favor #1 overall QB's and top ten WR.

Finally, it looks like the Rams, according to's Schefter are looking at hiring Leslie Frazier (or Steve Spgnuolo according to Yahoo!)this weekend -- Jim Haslett will be back on the coordinator market this weekend then. Also, depending on who the Jets hire, it appears that Brian Schottenheimer may be done in NY -- he is someone who I wouldn't mind seeing as an OC. However, things would have to happen pretty quick. I want to see Schwartz have his coordinators in place, and most of his staff by no later than Monday. With Schwartz getting hired by Detroit, that is the third coaching position filled (McDaniels and Mangini to Denver & Cleveland, respectively) the pace is really accelerating. Also, with so many Coordinators being hired into HC positions this ifseason, it means that there are going to be vacancies to be filled both by the new HC and the existing ones --- this is going to lead to a very lean market for good coordinators this season, and getting them locked in soon is imperative.

Obviously, breaking news of this coaching hire has interrupted the 3-4 and 4-3 stories I was writing, but don't worry -- there is plenty of ifseason left.


Mark from AZ said...

I'm for one very happy. Here's a good read I found at football guys. Very good and sums things up in a nut shell. So far so good for Mayhew.

November 23, 2008

NASHVILLE — It was not long after Jim Schwartz began an unpaid internship with the old Cleveland Browns, driving scouts and players to the airport, and buying cigarettes for the coaches, that he bumped up against football’s poured-in-concrete conventional wisdom.

Schwartz, now the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, had an economics degree from Georgetown University, an abiding fascination with statistics and a preference for watching game film over television. That made him a kindred spirit with his first N.F.L. boss, Bill Belichick. But when Schwartz told Belichick his findings from an early N.F.L. research project almost 15 years ago, Belichick said he did not believe him.

“Fumbles are a random occurrence,” Schwartz said he told Belichick. “Being able to get interceptions or not throw interceptions has a high correlation with good teams. But over the course of a year, good teams don’t fumble any more or less than bad teams. Bill didn’t agree. He said, ‘No, good teams don’t fumble the ball.’ But actually, they fumble just as often as bad teams.”

With the Titans, Schwartz once encouraged the former offensive coordinator Norm Chow to run more on third-and-short because his research indicated that it was more effective than passing.

Unorthodox thinking like that has earned Schwartz, 42, a reputation as one of the N.F.L.’s leading practitioners of statistical analysis — “Moneyball” for the shoulder-pad set — using them in coaching the defense for the league’s only unbeaten team.

In Schwartz’s eighth season as the coordinator, the Titans’ defense is ranked sixth entering Sunday’s game here against the Jets (7-3). The ranking is based on yards surrendered.

“Who cares who is leading in yardage?” Schwartz said, pointing out that allowing a 12-yard run raises the total but is meaningless on a third-and-20 play.

No statistic matters more to coaches than fewest points allowed, and by that measure, no team comes close to the Titans (10-0). They are giving up 13.1 points a game, 1.4 points fewer than the second-ranked Pittsburgh Steelers. But Schwartz, perhaps more aware than most of how numbers can be manipulated, did not embrace that figure without explanation.

The Titans gave up their most points of the season, 21, to Indianapolis. But the Colts scored 7 points with little time remaining, when the Titans were leading by 17. Against Kansas City, the Titans allowed 10 late points after the starters were pulled in a 34-10 victory. So the Titans average fewer than 13.1 meaningful points allowed.

With an offense that relies on the run, not downfield passing, the Titans are built to win close (read playoff) games. That leaves the defense with little margin for error.

The Titans are defined by multitalented players who are effective in different styles. The Titans used eight-man fronts to stop Jacksonville’s running game in the season opener, then played a cover-2 defense to thwart Cincinnati’s passing the next week.

With a line featuring Albert Haynesworth, perhaps the league’s best defensive player, the Titans generate pressure on quarterbacks with minimal blitzing. (An addendum to Schwartz’s fumble analysis: good teams sack the quarterback, and forcing a quarterback to fumble is a lot easier than taking the ball from a running back or a wide receiver.)

Players credit the defensive coaches for their ability to correct mistakes quickly — the Chicago Bears converted three consecutive third-down attempts on their opening drive against the Titans, but none the rest of the game — and for the detailed preparation that dovetails with what linebacker Keith Bulluck called Schwartz’s “little hobbies.”

Kyle Vanden Bosch said: “Especially from a defensive lineman standpoint, we don’t usually pay attention to formations and down and distance. 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.”

Belichick regards Schwartz as one of the smartest coaches he has been around, and in recent years, Schwartz has become a candidate for several head coaching jobs. He is almost certain to be a front-runner as positions open this year.

But being known as a “stats guy” is not necessarily a compliment, because statistics do not hold the romantic place in football that they do in baseball. Although every coach uses plenty of data — the Titans’ Jeff Fisher tracks how long his team takes to break the huddle — football is unlikely to bestow statistics-driven celebrity on anyone the way the baseball book “Moneyball” did on Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics.

Schwartz has met with the developers of a computer program to analyze difficult play-calling decisions, and he has watched film with Aaron Schatz, an author of “Pro Football Prospectus,” who uses unusual statistics to analyze the game. But at the same time, Schwartz shuns the impression that creates, stressing that statistics are just another tool in game preparation.

“Sometimes, that’s an easy thing for people in the media to use against you,” Schwartz said. “ ‘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.”

Numbers have long threaded through Schwartz’s thinking. His father was a police officer, and when they watch television together and see a news report about a murder, his father will mention what percentage of women are murdered by their husbands. When Schwartz was growing up in Baltimore, the Dallas Cowboys were the best team in football. They used a computer analysis of prospects as part of their forward-thinking draft preparation.

“They used that not to press a button and have the computer say, ‘This is your draft pick,’ ” Schwartz said. “It was more to guide them — these are important traits to look for. That’s the way we use it.”

The 16-game season provides a small sample, a shortcoming of football statistics. So Schwartz breaks down each drive as if it were its own game. Twelve drives, say, multiplied by 16 games is a much bigger sample.

Yet Schwartz rejects one Beane quirk revealed in “Moneyball” — that he does not like to watch games because he cannot stand how random events may influence the outcome. Schwartz, a former college linebacker, calls the defensive signals from the sideline rather than the press box, so he can look at his players and gauge their physical feedback. The Titans’ attacking style — what Vanden Bosch called “forcing the issue” — seems to run counter to the by-the-numbers image that makes Schwartz uncomfortable.

“This guy is a football coach who motivates players,” Schatz said, “and he also happens to have a very open mind and interest in statistics. But he’s not like me on the sidelines.”

Still, with Tennessee on the way to the playoffs, the Titans’ pounding defense — and the mind that directs it — figure to get plenty of attention. Schwartz cringes when he thinks others perceive him as a numbers geek, an odd concern for an avid amateur chess player who uses Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov analogies.

“People talk about the chess match between coaches and coordinators,” Schwartz said. “Anybody who plays chess knows your rook never falls down, your rook never stops one spot short. There’s human nature to football that will never make it into a game of numbers.”

Anonymous said...

With Schwartz able to hire, two names that were mentioned in an article I read were Jeremy Bates (DEN) and Brian Schottenheimer (NYJ). Bates is intriguing as he has been working with a young QB who can throw to a dynamo WR in Denver. Sound familiar? Bates may get canned by McDaniel, and Schottenheimer may be retained as an OC even if he doesn't get the head coaching job with the Jets as they want whomever selected to retain most (if not all) coaches.

The name mentioned for DC was Gunther Cunningham as they (he and Schwartz) had worked together before. He may be swept by Pioli in KC.

The audio feed from HUGE had an interesting tease that if in a bidding war, the Titans would not renew Haynesworth because of cap issues and would try drafting.


Isphet said...

I'm encouraged by the stories coming out about this guy. I think the Lions made the right choice in hiring him when they did.

I like Schwartz' cerebral approach to the game; and his ability to think outside the box a little. The "fumbling as a random occurrence" theory is interesting and I'm sure he has a glut of statistics to back up his theory.

More importantly, I think he's up to the daunting task of figuring out which current Lions defensive players are serviceable and salvageable, and which ones will need replacement. I bet we will be very surprised at a few of the guys that he ends up liking on the team.

I also like that he uses the best defensive schemes for each opponent. Use a 3-4 one week, then the next week switch to a cover-2; that's interesting philosophy. What scares me a little bit is that I don't think the Lions' D is going to know what hit them this offseason: they couldn't even run just the cover-2 correctly last year, and now they will be expected to run all the schemes at a pretty high level.

Todd said...

Hey first I want to thank DetFan for having posts almost everyday again!! Love having the daily read here. Also thanks Mark from AZ for that great link getting to know the new coach.

I'm really excited as I liked Schwartz best out of the candidates, Spagz I was unsure of I'm not sure why just didn't have a good feel for him. If I'm not mistaken I think he was only the DC for maybe 2-3 years and that first year boy were they aweful. And this year the giants defense performs but they got torched a few times for a ton of points Lions style. Anyways pretty happy about this. It will be interesting to see if Haynesworth would be signed but I'd have to say that'd be going against what they said in big name free agents because he is widely considered one of if not the top defensive player in the league, big cash. But you never know how much Schwartz could pull for him we will see. First pick should also be interesting!!

Go Lions! Anxious to see his presser today if anyone has the link.

RIP said...

I love the Schwartz hire.
My biggest concern with him is that he seems to be a work-a-holic, with an analogical mind. With a new position as head coach, he will try to break eveything down. From coordinators to hire, to personnel tendacies, and to college propects. He may have his own input to the Scouting Dept. on to input his evaluation critiques.
Then you add in the head coach the East-West Shrine game, moving family, and ..., His plate of accomplishments is huge. May not be enough hours in the day to accomplish what he wants to do by the middle of June.
By the time the season starts he may be burnt out, just like the rookies.
Here is hope from my end that Lewand and Mayhew monitors this, and they give him all the support, and time off they can.

Anonymous said...


Toot, toot! Schefter is now reporting that the Kansas City Chiefs were asked about and granted the Detroit Lions permission to interview the Chiefs' defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham.

Even if Gunther doesn't get the nod, I look for Schwartz to pick his brain as a trusted friend about certain steps that need to be made in Detroit.

It will be interesting for sure.

I would LOVE to see Chucky or Shanny's name for OC, but I don't think they would/could check the ego.