This is a guest post from T.J. McCreight. McCreight has worked as a scout, director of pro personnel, director of college scouting, and a player personnel executive across multiple NFL teams.
In a few months when the NFL season winds down, the league faces an unfortunate truth. Several teams will be looking for head coaches.
If I were an NFL owner, a name I would strongly consider is Defensive Coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, Jim Schwartz. Schwartz, through the first four games of the season, has totally transformed Cleveland’s defense as they are first in yards allowed per game and 2nd in points allowed per game. They play hard and they confound offenses, but 2023 is just part of the story.
Schwartz started off his career in scouting for the Browns under head coach Bill Belichick. The Browns gave all potential employees and players an aptitude test. According to Mike Lombardi’s book, Gridiron Genius, Schwartz scored higher than anyone had ever scored in the organization. It was so unusual that after the person that developed the test graded the results, he immediately called the Browns and said you must hire this person immediately, don’t let him out of the building.
Certainly, Schwartz learned some things in Cleveland. Along with working under perhaps the greatest coach in sports history, that staff also boasted Nick Saban, Kirk Ferentz, Eric Mangini, Ozzie Newsome, and Pat Hill. He learned to deal with chaos, a helpful skill for a head coach, as the team moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens.
He eventually was a coordinator for the Tennessee Titans when they went to the Super Bowl. He then got his head coaching opportunity taking over an 0-16 Detroit Lions team, and by 2011, he took the lowly Lions to a 10-win season. He was the defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles when they won the Super Bowl. It is an impressive resume to say the least.
Before analytics were as widespread as they are now, he used it deeply. Instead of an entire department with mega computers spitting out information, Schwartz was doing it in his own way. He also has the ability to relate to players and get the very best out of them. He wants players to celebrate, be themselves, and create a brand. He understands matchups, putting players in the very best positions on the field, and taking advantage of what they do best.
Most coaches don’t get a second chance to become a head coach. Still, successful people can learn from their mistakes and take advantage of their experiences the second time around; just look at Bill Belichick and Andy Reid.
Schwartz deserves a second chance. In my 25-year career, he is one of the best I have ever been around.