At 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz saw an offensive player in the team cafeteria wearing a sleeveless shirt. Coach Doug Pederson has a rule that forbids players from wearing sleeveless shirts in the cafeteria. So Schwartz tapped that player and told him he needed to go get sleeves. Schwartz isn't the head coach, but he felt the responsibility to enforce Pederson's rules.
Schwartz told this story while responding to a Sunday Inquirer story that cited three players who requested anonymity who said it is common knowledge in the locker room that Schwartz is waiting to usurp power and an Eagles staffer who said Pederson is probably the only coach who doesn't think Schwartz is trying to undercut him. The story also detailed Schwartz's longtime friendship with former NFL executive Mike Lombardi, a former colleague of Schwartz who assailed Pederson's coaching ability on a podcast that aired before the season opener. Lombardi later denied that their friendship had anything to do with his criticism of Pederson.
"I'll say this unequivocally; I am very comfortable with my relationship with Doug Pederson, and I know he's comfortable in his relationship with me," Schwartz said Tuesday. "What I do here is I work extremely hard to execute the defense that he has outlined it for me. And I'm very comfortable in that. And not everybody's privy to those instructions. So if anybody misunderstands or misinterprets any actions, just know this: Coach Pederson is aware of everything I do inside this building or outside this building."
Schwartz is a former NFL head coach who came to the Eagles with an aggressive personality. It was an arranged marriage – Pederson did not have much of a relationship with Schwartz before the two were hired – and Pederson called Schwartz the head coach of the defense.
Schwartz's name has been discussed as a potential head-coaching candidate since the start of last season. When asked whether he's cognizant not to step on Pederson's toes, Schwartz said Pederson has told him to keep his personality. There's no public indication that Pederson has any reservations with Schwartz's presence. Schwartz went as far as to say Pederson has "embraced" it.
"Look, I can be brash, check. I can be in your face, check. It's the only way I know to coach defense," Schwartz said. "And as long as coach Pederson's fine with it, I'm going to continue that. And he is."
That is on message with what Pederson said Monday. Pederson said the two have had a "great relationship" and "talk quite a bit." Pederson did not feel the need to clear the air after the column was published.
"I love his enthusiasm. I love his swagger," Pederson said. "I think our defensive guys feed off of that. Most d-coordinators I've been around have that, and he's no different, and that's one of the things I like about Jim is the fact that he has it and the guys feed off of that and that's the way they play."
Schwartz indicated that not everyone in the building might be privy to his relationship with Pederson. Maybe the offensive player in the sleeveless shirt was one of them. But that was an example Schwartz used of how he works on Pederson's behalf, and his comments made clear that he knows who the head coach is in the building.
"I know as a head coach when I serve that, I want people around the building that are enforcing my rules, and I did that for him," Schwartz said. "I respect that position, and I'm going to execute the job the way that he outlined it for me. I think anything else we can't really worry about."