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Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Search: Jim Schwartz brings experience, an edge, but has a lot of question marks

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Is Jim Schwartz experience and excellence enough to warrant a second shot as a head coach?

Denver Broncos v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

With the Arizona Cardinals waiting to finish up their coaching search until Wednesday, when they get a shot to finally talk to Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, there are two candidates I’ve yet to cover.

We’ll start today with the one wild card and by that I mean that man and the coach is a complete wild card.

Jim Schwartz was a four year letterman at Georgetown University as a linebacker before heading to the coaching ranks in 1989.

His first stop as a graduate assistant was Maryland, where he worked with linebackers in 1989, then he was at the University of Minnesota for his second year as a grad assistant in 1990.

In 1991 he got his first assistant coaching job in 1991 at North Carolina Central as the secondary coach. In 1992, Schwartz moved onto Colgate as the linebackers coach. That was his final year at the collegiate level, as he moved into scouting for the Cleveland Browns with Bill Belichick as his coach, from 1993-1995.

In 1996, he got his first gig in the bigs, as the linebacker coach for the Baltimore Ravens. That lasted until 1998, then in 1999, he made the moves to the Tennessee Titans as the defensive assistant. In 2000, he moved to linebackers coach, then in 2001 he was elevated to defensive coordinator.

Schwartz would be the DC for the Titans from 2001-2008.

The Titans finished: 25th, 10th, 12th, 27th, 19th, 32nd in defense in Schwartz’s first six seasons, then in his last two, they finished 5th and 7th. They also had their best seasons as a scoring defense, finishing 8th in 2007 and 2nd in 2008.

That led to Schwartz getting his first head coaching job with the woeful Detroit Lions. Coming off an 0-16 season, the Lions were the jokes of the league, but Schwartz wasn’t worried and his hard nose, reckless style seemed to be a perfect fit for what Detroit needed.

In the beginning it was. 2-14 to 6-10 to 10-6 and the first playoff appearance of the millennium for the Lions. It seemed like the Lions had their coach, quarterback and defense of the future.

They rewarded Schwartz with a contract extension and it looked like the tide had turned for the Lions.

Yet, as Jeremy Reisman of Pride of Detroit explained it, all was not what it seemed:

In essence here’s what went wrong: the team was undisciplined, Matthew Stafford was too wild and there didn’t seem to be much organization in the ranks. The Lions were commonly amongst the top 10 in penalties with Schwartz at the helm and were reckless with the ball.

Reckless was a common theme when you read up on Schwartz.

In the final month months of the 2013 season, the Lions had a pristine opportunity to grab their first division title in 20 years. Detroit was 6-3. The winner of the division would end up having an 8-7-1 record. The Lions went 1-6 down the stretch and finished third in the division.

Hence the subsequent hiring of super safe, super poised Jim Caldwell.

Yet, as Brandon Lee Gowton explains, things have changed, a little bit, for Schwartz as a coach:

Losing Schwartz would hurt the Eagles because he’s solely in charge of the defense. Doug Pederson defers to him on that side of the ball...

There’s no question he’s done some strong work with the Eagles’ defense. I just don’t think he’s a slam dunk option for teams given his track record with Detroit.

That’s the question, does his work post Detroit, and to be fair, for three seasons in Detroit, outweigh the insane end to his work as a head coach?

As a defensive coordinator post Detroit, he has done an amazing job again:

2014 Buffalo Bills - 4th in yards and 4th in scoring
2015 Philadelphia Eagles - 13th in yards and 12th in scoring
2016 Philadelphia Eagles - 4th in yards and 4th in scoring

Schwartz is loved and trusted in Philadelphia, but will he be ready to be a head coach again?

Is he the answer at head coach?


Is Jim Schwartz the man for the Arizona Cardinals?

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