Jim Schwartz waiting for right opportunity to continue coaching

Jim Schwartz might be a little nervous if he had not spent the first five years of his coaching career with five different teams, including his first stop as a graduate assistant at the University of Maryland.

So when Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone decided not to come back after the 2014 season and the Bills chose Rex Ryan over Schwartz to replace Marrone, there were no hard feelings.


There could have been. In one season as coordinator, Schwartz helped the Bills become one of the best defensive units in the NFL, and to a 9-7 record, their first winning season in 10 years.

Some coaches would have been bitter about a perceived lack of gratitude. Instead, Schwartz remains unemployed, but he's optimistic.


"When I had those first five jobs I was fortunate because I didn't have any family responsibilities at that time," said Schwartz, 48, a graduate of Mount Saint Joseph. "Coaching is still in my blood and I'm just fortunate at this time of my career where I can be selective about opportunities.

"Where it goes from here, I don't know. But you always have to be aware of certain dynamics that may come with it."

Schwartz always has been a smart guy, so money isn't an issue at this point in his career. He'll eventually get another job because he has one of the best defensive minds in the game and he has worked under other great defensive minds Bill Belichick, Gunther Cunningham, Marvin Lewis and Jeff Fisher.

A major cornerstone of his career was built in 2001 through 2008 when he was the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. In five years as the head coach in Detroit, where he compiled a 29-51 record, the Lions always had one of the hardest-hitting and highly respected defenses in the NFL.

Throughout his career, Schwartz-led defenses have ranked high in third-down and red-zone efficiency. Last year, Buffalo led the NFL in sacks (54) and the Bills were fourth in points allowed (18.1 per game). They were also fourth in yards allowed (312.2) and third in takeaways with 30.

"He knows what he is doing," said Buffalo's Donnie Henderson, one of the NFL's top secondary coaches. "From the first time he walked into the room, you knew he knew the game and how to play it. He won't be out there long, somebody is going to hire him as a coordinator or head coach again."

It has to be the right fit because Schwartz is his own man. The Belichick influence of confidence is obvious, and Schwartz won't back down from anyone. It was no surprise to see him chase after former San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh several years ago because he thought Harbaugh slighted him during the postgame handshake.

When several Bills defensive players carried him off the field on their shoulders after a win last season, it was vintage Schwartz.

So when the Bills hired Ryan, there was no way Ryan and Schwartz were going to mesh. Their personalities are too strong, their philosophies so different.

"I've known Rex for a long time," Schwartz said. "I have a lot of respect for him as a person, and for what he has done and his schemes. But like there are certain players who fit in with other players, the same is true with coaches."

Basically, Ryan wanted to bring pressure all the time and he blitzes often. Schwartz likes to get pressure with his front four. In Ryan's scheme, cornerbacks can be left alone and unprotected. In Schwartz's scheme, you're probably going to need a stud or two on the defensive line.

Also, Ryan isn't going to let anyone coach his defense except him. Several teams like the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco are still in the market for coordinators.


If Schwartz doesn't get a job this year, he'll get one the following season. He certainly isn't sweating the situation, and moving won't be a problem. NFL assistant coaches move just as much as career officers in the military.

"Some of the most well-adjusted kids are coach's kids because they don't live in a cocoon, they have to adapt to new friends, new situations," Schwartz said. "Behind every coach there is usually a very strong wife, and she has to be with our 100-hour work weeks. Our families only get to see us on Friday afternoons and Sunday nights after the game.

"I saw the opening up in Buffalo as a good opportunity, so I took it. But no, right now, I can't see myself doing anything else. Coaching is something I love, something I have a passion about. Another opportunity will present itself. I'm not too concerned."


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