Doug Pederson did not have a relationship with Jim Schwartz before hiring him as the Eagles' defensive coordinator in January. But Pederson knew the importance of that job, and Schwartz's track record.
What Pederson needed to learn when the two met was how Schwartz would function in the role, considering Schwartz is a former head coach with a more extensive resumé than Pederson's.
"There were certain questions I asked about that," Pederson said. "He fully understands his role, his situation. He loves where he's at as a coordinator. He did the head-coaching thing. He understands it."
Schwartz broke into the NFL in 1993 at 27 as an unpaid intern with the Cleveland Browns, making airport runs and fetching cigarettes for coaches, according to reports.
During the next two decades, Schwartz ascended from scout to position coach to coordinator to head coach. After being away from coaching last season, Schwartz could be selective about his next job.
What Schwartz found was the closest one to head coach available. Pederson is granting Schwartz near autonomy over the defense. He called Schwartz the "head coach on defense" and said he wanted to "turn the keys over to" him. Andy Reid shared with Pederson how helpful it was to have Jim Johnson running the defense when Reid took over the Eagles in 1999 and "how important it was to find that guy you trust on defense," Pederson said.
That is the model Pederson is following in 2016.
Entering his first training camp with the Eagles, Schwartz is installing a 4-3 defense that is closer to what the Eagles ran in Reid's final years than what the team used under Chip Kelly.
Pederson agreed with the philosophy that Schwartz is introducing to the defense. And even without a background in the scheme, he signed off on it because of what Schwartz offers. Though Pederson will hear the defensive calls on his headset during the game, he said he does not anticipate overruling Schwartz.
"I think this first time around, this first year, he's implementing his defense, his structure, his style," Pederson said. "He's the professional on that side. My expertise is on offense. His is over there on defense. So whether I have suggestions or not, it's our defense. But at the same time, he's the master. He's done it for 100 years. It's proven. Just like the offense that I've been in is proven.
"I wouldn't expect him to come over on the offensive side and make suggestions, whether it be on personnel or plays or the calling or any of that. So I kind of leave [the defense] up to him."
Pederson made sure to note that he would not be oblivious to the defense. He wants to hear the calls and strategize with the assistants during the week and on game day. What he doesn't want to do is micromanage an experienced coach.
Schwartz first oversaw an NFL defense when he was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator with Tennessee in 2001. He introduced his scheme for the first time as a head coach in Detroit in 2009 and as a coordinator in Buffalo in 2014. What he learned from those experiences is that "everybody picks things up at a different pace," so he can't try to mimic the implementation process from Detroit or Buffalo.
"You've got to keep an open mind," Schwartz said. "It's hard to be patient in the NFL. But you have to be patient [in the offseason] because we don't have any games scheduled on Sunday, and the most important thing is making progress on technique and fundamentals and building a good foundation that you can draw on in September.
"You just have to judge everybody on this year and not what happened in the past."
Schwartz called his scheme "very easy in theory, difficult in execution." The scheme limits the demands on players, promoting more reacting than thinking. NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, an Eagles scout when they ran a similar scheme earlier in the decade, said that the joke used to be that read was a four-letter word.
Schwartz wants his defenders attacking, and that mentality will be evident in practice during the next month. Players already have observed a difference. Safety Malcolm Jenkins said Schwartz is more about a "mentality" than the X's and O's, and he wants the players to feel invested in the scheme.
Schwartz knows he needs to embrace the role he's serving. He's not the head coach, but he's gone from driving coaches to the airport to being in an organization's driver's seat. And now that he holds the keys to the Eagles defense, the perspective he has from his career is to worry about the job he was hired to do.
"Everybody has a different role, and every role is important, whether you're a quality control coach breaking down the film, whether you're one of the equipment guys holding the chains on the sideline," Schwartz said. "Whether you're the head coach or defensive coordinator. You have an important role to fill, and you have enough in that role that keeps you occupied."