Jim Schwartz is still with Eagles, but how long can they keep him? | Jeff McLane
The Eagles' defensive coordinator has new faces in his unit, but confidence remains high. For how much longer, though? Schwartz is in the last year of his contract, and he still has higher aspirations.
Jim Schwartz had virtually nothing to say about the Super Bowl nearly four months after he had nothing to say about the Super Bowl.
"We won the game, that's our objective," Schwartz said Tuesday. "There it is."
The question had been asked during Schwartz's first media availability since before the title game because the defensive coordinator was the lone member of the Eagles' coaching staff and front office to decline interviews following the 41-33 victory.
If he wasn't notoriously press-reticent, Schwartz's dodge — technically, he was obligated to talk by the NFL — could have been interpreted as shirking responsibility. The Patriots racked up a Super Bowl-record 613 yards — 500 through the air — with Tom Brady completing passes at will for most of the game.
Schwartz, of course, has little to be ashamed about. His defense was ranked fourth in the league in yards and points allowed during the regular season and it held the Falcons and Vikings to a combined 17 points in the Eagles' first two playoff games.
He also wasn't the first coordinator victimized by Brady in the Super Bowl. But when the Eagles needed stops on New England's last two possessions, Schwartz's unit delivered.
"I'll say this in just broad strokes, our objective is to win the game," Schwartz said when asked if he spent much time evaluating film of the Super Bowl for corrections. "We won the game. So we don't want to dissect that any farther than that.
"But at the end of the year, we divide all our games up and look at cut-ups. It's not just the Super Bowl, but the championship game, division round, week one. They all sort of count the same as we look for trends, scheme, things we can do better, and adjustments we need to make."
He would have preferred, however, to perform better in the biggest game of his career and against mentor Bill Belichick. Schwartz has evaded questions about his aspirations to be a head coach again, but he's one more year removed from once holding that job. The NFL has seemingly deemed coordinator to be his ceiling.
The Cardinals did consider Schwartz, 52 on Saturday, for their vacancy in January. But it was his lone interview. The New York Giants reportedly had a meeting scheduled, but they canceled it.
"That's ground that's way too long to recover," Schwartz said when asked why the interview never happened.
Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo generated more interest — he eventually left to be the Vikings' offensive coordinator — and the Colts hired offensive coordinator Frank Reich after Josh McDaniels got cold feet.
NFL owners are increasingly employing offensive-minded coaches and leaders such as Eagles coach Doug Pederson and Reich with so-called "emotional intelligence." Schwartz doesn't apply in the former and seemingly not in the latter.
There's no doubt he knows defense. But is Schwartz, who has one year left on his contract, content with being just a coordinator and holding that position for an extended period with the Eagles as Jim Johnson once did? The topic wasn't broached during his lone news conference of the spring, but it's not hard to imagine him finding some creative way to avoid the question.
Schwartz's enthusiasm for coaching defense hasn't appeared to wane. The tenets of his scheme — a 4-3 attacking one-gap front — are the same as they've been for the last two decades. But he has always tried to adapt to his personnel and to ever-evolving offenses. According to safety Malcolm Jenkins, the Eagles' coverages changed significantly from Year 1 to Year 2.
"We were huge when he first got here with single-high, press-man," Jenkins said. "Where last year we still played single-high, but we played the majority of our snaps in two defenses."
Schwartz didn't have the need to be exotic last year because the Eagles defense has many versatile players. Jenkins, for instance, can play both safety spots, the slot, corner, rover ,and even linebacker depending upon offensive personnel.
"He still has his entire playbook," Jenkins said, "but what he's actually going to call is probably not much, just because I think he's starting to hone in on what we do best as players, what we understand, and what's going to give us the best chance to be successful."
But seasons change, as does personnel, and the Eagles have several new faces on defense. Defensive end Vinny Curry, defensive tackle Beau Allen, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, and cornerback Patrick Robinson are out. Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata, Corey Nelson, and Sidney Jones are (likely) in.
Schwartz was asked about several players on Tuesday, and in his answers, he sensed a theme of "multi-dimensional talents." Bennett, the highest-profile defensive addition of the offseason, has been absent for organized team activities, but Schwartz listed versatility high among the defensive end's attributes.
"He's a guy that can play outside at defensive end," Schwartz said. "He also has great success inside as an inside defensive tackling pass rush. He's just a player that fits our scheme really well and has a lot of characteristics that we value, [like the] ability to pressure the quarterback."
As effective as the Eagles line was during the season and the first two rounds of the postseason, it failed to pressure Brady for most of the Super Bowl. A porous pass coverage didn't help and neither did Schwartz's game plan, which made it easy for the Patriots quarterback to diagnose before the snap whether the Eagles were in man or zone.
All it took, on many occasions, was a simple pre-snap motion.
"We usually do disguise that better," Jenkins said. "I think that week we were more concerned about the matchups because they give you so many different formations and personnel packages."
The plan was to have Jenkins cover running back James White and safety Corey Graham cover tight end Rob Gronkowski in man situations. Schwartz played more zone in the first half and the cornerbacks helped keep Gronkowski (one catch for 9 yards) in check. But Patriots receivers had a field day (eight catches for 200 yards) before the break.
On one play, Brady signaled for Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks to switch spots to his right. Ronald Darby and Robinson didn't follow suit — a sure zone tell — and Brady took advantage with a 50-yard pass to Amendola when the coverage was blown.
Brady had just as much success without the aid of pre-snap motions, but he went at Graham (and others) and hit Gronkowski for eight catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. Jenkins, though, limited White to just two catches for 21 yards throughout the game.
It was pick your poison and Schwartz at best pushed.
But when the Patriots trailed 38-33 with two minutes left and Chris Hogan motioned wide, showing zone, the coverage forced Brady to hesitate and gave Brandon Graham the opportunity to sack the quarterback and force the biggest turnover of the game.
Get insights on the Eagles delivered straight to your inbox with Early Birds, beat writer Zach Berman's newsletter for Eagles fans. Click here to sign up.