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Ford: Schwartz grabs hold of Eagles' defense

At Tuesday's news conference to introduce Doug Pederson as the new head coach of the Eagles, Jim Schwartz stood off to the side in the shadow of the TV lights, casually dressed in slacks and a light jacket amid the sea of shiny suits bearing team lapel pins.

At Tuesday's news conference to introduce Doug Pederson as the new head coach of the Eagles, Jim Schwartz stood off to the side in the shadow of the TV lights, casually dressed in slacks and a light jacket amid the sea of shiny suits bearing team lapel pins.

He had completed the interview process for the position of defensive coordinator earlier in the day and had left the NovaCare Complex when the call came that he got the job. Schwartz was asked to hurry back and be on hand for the announcement.

"I feel like Al Pacino in The Godfather. Just when I thought I was out, they dragged me back in," Schwartz said. "I didn't even get to take my coat off."

Schwartz was definitely out of the coaching game last season and didn't have to be dragged back. He wanted back in, and the opportunity to take over the Eagles defense attracted him, and not just because it can go only in one direction. He inherits a defense from Bill Davis that was ranked 30th in the league, after being ranked 29th and 28th the previous two seasons, respectively. Some of that is because the unit was also ranked first in the league for time spent on the field, but some of it is because the defense just isn't very good.

Having previously scouted or coached for 23 years in nine organizations, Schwartz is no stranger to bad situations. Some are better than others, but all of them have potential drawbacks. When you have taken the head coaching job with a team coming off the only 0-16 record in NFL history, a little adversity doesn't scare you.

Schwartz observed the news conference Tuesday with what appeared to be quiet bemusement as Pederson plowed stolidly through the questions about his lack of experience, his apparent lack of power within the organization, and his advanced degree in time management from the school of Andy Reid.

"Here's Doug Pederson, new head coach, just gets done thanking his wife and right away it's, 'What took so long on that last drive?' The honeymoon is short in Philadelphia, man," Schwartz said. "When I got off the train from New York yesterday, there were two cameras. I told the guy picking me up, 'Daggone, they're waiting for me,' and he said, 'No, Coach. They're not here for you. There was a murder on the subway.' "

Well, welcome to Philadelphia, Jim. Good to have you. If it makes things any easier, your new boss figures to have a longer honeymoon than the last guy. Chip Kelly wasn't really interested in making the compromises necessary for a lasting relationship, so Pederson was hand-picked for an arranged marriage between a pliant head coach and a powerful personnel department. If he comes off as a lumbering Tank McNamara, that's all right, too. Reid never led the personality parade when he was here, and he did just fine.

Schwartz is a different kind of cat. In fact, he would have been an interesting choice for the big job. An academic all-American at Georgetown, with an economics degree and a distinguished economics graduate award, Schwartz would be equipped to debate salary cap implications with the front office any time.

Bill Belichick, who gave Schwartz his first NFL job as a coaching intern with the Browns, said he is among the smartest coaches he's ever known. Schwartz also has a wicked sense of humor, a voracious love of reading, and an abiding passion for head-banging rock-and-roll. When he checked into a Detroit hotel before being announced as the Lions head coach in 2009, the assumed name he chose was Jack White, front man of the White Stripes.

Being a head coach again might be a goal for Schwartz somewhere down the road, but that wasn't going to happen here. Not this time. He likes the job he got because the head coach is from the offensive side of the ball, which means Schwartz will get to fully run his own show.

"The one thing I haven't done is hold a Super Bowl trophy, and that consumes me," Schwartz said. "You get to a certain point in your career, and you can let things come to you rather than have to chase them. I like to think I was in that position."

Schwartz left scheme for another day. He said the standard, and correct, thing about fitting scheme to the players available instead of the other way around. He's most associated with a 4-3 base defense and has used some wide-nine alignments to achieve pressure on the quarterback, but the success of any philosophy is determined by the talent on the team.

He mentioned Fletcher Cox and Connor Barwin as solid pieces up front, made a subtle pitch to keep free agents Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry, and recalled coaching Brandon Graham at the Senior Bowl.

"He was my MVP," Schwartz said. "I helped him get drafted in the first round. He might owe me a little bit of that signing bonus. I think he had three or four sacks in that game."

It was actually two sacks, five tackles, one tackle for loss, and one forced fumble, but not a bad day in any case. If Schwartz can turn around the whole Eagles defense, maybe he'll help all of them make some money down the road.

That would be a nice outcome, and a reasonable goal. Holding the Super Bowl trophy is another thing entirely. That takes even more than coaching skill and player talent. It takes the kind of right-time-right-place luck that is bestowed only on 1/32d of the league each season.

Jim Schwartz is willing to fight those odds again, even in a place where the honeymoon is admittedly short outside the organization. The real trick, though, as was recently proven, is keeping the spark alive inside the building. Good luck with that one, too, and stay off the subway.