Recapping Jim Schwartz’s introductory press conference: ‘Establishing trust is job number one’

The Cleveland Browns introduced Jim Schwartz as their new defensive coordinator yesterday at his press conference. He spoke a great deal about his previous stint in Cleveland under Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, his use of analytics, and how he plans to maximize the talents of Myles Garrett.

This is just the beginning as the Browns now have to improve the personnel for Schwartz to coach on the defensive side of the football, but the new defensive coordinator wowed in his introduction. In case you missed the press conference, here is everything you need to know as the Browns welcome in Schwartz to turn this defense around.

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Kevin Stefanski opening statement:

“Thanks for being here guys. I am very excited to announce Jim Schwartz as our defensive coordinator. Coach Schwartz’s résumé speaks for itself. He is somebody who I have a ton of respect for. We did not know each other personally really before this process, but we have a lot of mutual friends, and I have admired his career from afar. Has done it at a high level at multiple stops. Just pleased that we really believe that he is the guy to lead our defense. We are excited to add him to our staff and excited to add him to the organization and the wealth of knowledge that he can bring to this group, including myself. Excited to announce Coach Schwartz, and the floor is Coach Schwartz’s now.”

Schwartz's opening statement

“Thank you. You all have to give me just a quarter of a second here when I see Dino’s (former Browns public relations director Dino Lucarelli) picture on the back wall right there. Dino set up me buying my first ever sofa in the NFL. I had finally got on full-time with the Browns, and I was trying to furnish an apartment other than stuff that was at the dumpster (laughter). He set me up with old ‘Glue Fingers’ – Dante Lavelli had a furniture shop. I went down and got a sofa that somebody had ordered and then didn’t like when they took delivery. It was sitting, and he sold it to me for nothing. Dino meant a lot to me early in my career. I used to sit out in practice and talk to him. It is awesome to see his name up here [in the Dino Lucarelli Media Center] and to come full circle that way. Anyway, sorry for that personal note.”

On how his three years with the Browns served as a steppingstone for his NFL career:

“I had coached in college for four years before. I grew up in Baltimore. I was a blue-collar kid. My parents didn’t go to college. We were NFL fans; we weren’t college football fans. In the back of my mind, I always wanted and I always aspired to the NFL, but trying to get in was a different story. Being able to get here, I started as an unpaid intern. I was driving people to the airport, and I was getting cigarettes for secretaries and filing papers, but I also got to be a fly on the wall and listen to (former Browns and Patriots Head Coach) Bill Belichick and (former Browns defensive coordinator and Alabama Head Coach) Nick Saban, and (former Browns special teams coach and Patriots area scout) Scott O’Brien, (former Browns offensive line coach and Iowa Head Coach) Kirk Ferentz and gosh you name it, just unbelievable. I was young. I didn’t have a wife. I didn’t have a family.  I lived here at the office. Even though I have a degree from Georgetown, I got my degree in football-ology and a PhD in football-ology from the Browns and from Bill Belichick. It was just awesome. I was mainly in scouting, but we wore a lot of different hats. As long as you had a good work ethic, you were willing to learn and you could keep your mouth shut, you could learn an awful lot, and I was pretty good at all three of those things. It really made a difference. It took me a long time – it probably took me 10 years in the NFL to become an ‘overnight sensation.’ The years that I spent here were the basis for everything that happened to me later. Whether it was my exposure to football operations, scouting, talking about Dino with media or anything else, it all went back to the three years that I spent in this building. The building has changed a whole lot, but I think the ghosts have all stayed here.”

On how he was introduced to Belichick prior to joining the Browns:

“(Former Navy scout and coach) Steve (Belichick) did. I was at Colgate. I was coaching linebackers as a limited earnings coach, and one of our coaches had coached at Navy. He knew I wanted to get into the NFL. We were at the coaches convention one year. Steve Belichick was there, and he introduced me to Steve. Steve introduced me to Bill, and a conversation with Bill lasted about five seconds. ‘Hi. Nice to meet you,’ and that was it. Then maybe four or five months later, I got a call asking me to come in for an unpaid internship. That was sort of I say my biggest break, but I was very fortunate to be in that position and fortunate to be in a building that had so much talent. You don’t know it at the time that Nick Saban is going to go on to be maybe the greatest ever college football coach and Bill Belichick is going to be maybe the greatest ever NFL football coach and just all those other guys. Again, if you had a sharp pencil, kept your mouth shut and kept your ears open, you could learn an awful lot, and I did. I had really no relationship with anybody other than Steve who said, ‘A guy I worked with at Navy recommended this guy. I think you should talk to him.’ That was my connection.”

On if he was paid during his three years with the Browns:

“Oh yeah. Yeah. My first year I worked for free and lived at the end of the airport runway over there so I couldn’t sleep in and I couldn’t go to bed too soon (laughter). I just got used to trains again last night – blow that horn over every crossing, I have to get used to that again (laughter). It was a great experience for a young coach, a young professional in the NFL. Your focus again it was like grad school; it was like a PhD program. Every waking moment was about the club. I don’t think I have ever told Nick this story, but when Nick went off to be the head coach at Michigan State, I helped him pack up his office. Back then, you packing these big thick playbooks and all of this different stuff. Anyway, Nick left one of his binders – I think it was from the 1992 season; he left after the ‘94 season I think – and it had all [of Saban’s notes]. Nick was meticulous and just a fabulous coach in preparation. Basically all 16 games and his notes from beginning of the week to end of the week and his postgame notes, and it was all right there. He had just left it behind because he had the other two years. I just sort of grabbed that and had it. I tell you what, I can’t tell you how much I referred to that over my years, particularly my first years as a coordinator and just trying to copy the process that Nick went through and looked and see the way. It didn’t matter what opponent it was or what schemes. It was more about the process. Oh yeah, so my first year I made nothing, and I think by the time I was done I was up to about $20,000 a year so I was feeling good about myself (laughter). I was feeling good about myself at the end (laughter).”

On the story about the turkey sandwich and Belichick:

“Bill doesn’t like that story. For you guys that don’t know, I get hired as an unpaid intern. It is minicamp, and minicamp is like Tuesday through Friday. Sort of the old thing back then was on Thursday, you called the team up and said, ‘Hey look, if we have a good practice today, you guys are off tomorrow.’ Then we all go out and give it a heroic effort, and everybody will be gone. My plane ticket – I had just been hired like a couple days before, and I am picking guys up at the airport, shuttling them back, checking off names at lunch and all of that stuff – and my flight doesn’t go back until like 9 p.m. on Friday night so it is a ghost town here. There is nobody here. This whole building is empty. Everybody has gone fishing for the summer. I have nothing else to do so I am here. Back then, they used to have kitchens that had food. I sort of root through it, and it is the middle of the afternoon. I root through, and there is some turkey. I make a nice little turkey sandwich and use the rest of the turkey. I get my little crackers, and I have my drink. I’m sitting in there, and the whole day I hadn’t seen a soul. There was not one person in the building in the entire day. It is just me. Put my little pictures on my little cubicle area. I didn’t even have an office; it was like a desk. The gist is just as I am biting into this turkey sandwich in comes Bill. It was obvious he had been working the whole day, but he was holed up in his office. I had barely even met him. I was just having my turkey sandwich. He just gives you the, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ ‘I’m fine, Coach.’ I’m doing this, and he goes and opens the refrigerator and starts opening the drawers and looking and he looks over at me and goes, ‘Hey, have you seen the turkey?’ I was like, ‘I just used the last of it, Coach.’ He just sort of gives me this bad look, just shakes his head and says something under his breath and leaves. I called home afterwards like, ‘Hey, my flight arrives at 9:30 p.m., and I might not have a return flight after that (laughter).’ The interesting part of that whole story was how much attention to detail Bill had with everything that went on in the building and what his work ethic was. Everybody else was gone, and I am sure Bill could have been off to Nantucket the next day, but he was grinding out that next day, and it was important that there was food in there for guys that were working. All of that stuff was just, you learn about Cover 2 an, you learn about blitz, you learn about formation tendencies and all of that stuff, but just those kind of things I probably carried with me a little bit longer in my career – every little thing that touches the team and every little thing you do matters, and a lot of times, it is the work behind the scenes that means the most. It is not working where everybody can see you; it is those times where you are alone in your office and you don’t think there is anybody else there. That is the stuff that makes the difference.”

On if he has been back to the Browns facility since the end of the 1995 season:

“Yeah, I have been back a few times. It has changed quite a bit obviously. It changed in 1999. It changed then, and it has changed a lot now. The outside looks the same. The footprint seems about the same. I just got here last night, and probably tonight at about 8 o’clock at night when everybody is gone, I am going to walk around the building probably a dozen times and try to figure my way around so I can get a little bit of an ease of operation. It is a great facility. I have been around a bunch of them. It is a great facility. It makes it easy to be able to do your work as a coach. It is really a tribute to ownership the capital improvements they have made for not just the coaches but for the players, and I do not know about you guys, but it just seems like it is a good place to come to work and it makes it easy to do your job.”

On why the Browns defensive coordinator position was attractive after having a ‘semi-retirement’ a few years ago:

“A couple of years ago, I had some health issues – my thyroid, not to bore you guys and probably maybe not too much for print – but my thyroid went kaput a couple of years ago. It took the greater part of about 18 months to get my numbers to where they needed to be, and it is well controlled. I went through a year where I could not sleep more than two hours. I was either too hot or too cold. My poor wife, I would freeze her out with the air conditioning and then walk around with a winter coat on the next day. I had some eye surgeries because of some vision stuff due to it. As soon as we got the number straight – it is a little bit of a moving target, but boring – and once I got that straightened out… I had one doctor tell me one time as I am like, ‘Look, I get really wicked headaches from watching film because I have some doubled vision.’ His solution was, ‘Well, do not watch so much film.’ I could not cheat the game. I could not give a substandard performance. It was not fair to the organization. It was not fair to the players. It was not fair to the other guys coaching staff. It was a very difficult decision, but I had to step away. The Titans and (Titans Head Coach) Mike Vrabel were very gracious to give me an opportunity to still contribute while I was sort of dealing with that stuff. I feel good. I am ready to go again. Attractive here, I think it always starts with ownership. I have seen a lot of different ownerships, but I appreciate hands-on ownership. I appreciate owners that are willing to make the improvements/capital improvements in order to be successful. I see that here. I had a little bit of a relationship with (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew Berry from Philadelphia and knew the way he thought and how smart he was and his long-range vision. When he was in Philly, I used to in the back of my mind – I do not know that I ever told him this; it will probably be news to him – always had it in the back of my mind that, ‘Man, that is a guy I would like to work with again and that is sort of my idea of a GM.’ Just unflappable. The same all of the time. Did not get too high. Did not get too low. Us coaches, we can get emotional. It is hard to wear a loss. Sometimes we get a little too high after a win. That is not Andrew. He is straight down the middle. I have a lot of respect for that consistency. With Kevin, we had met each other over the years and gone head to head a couple of times, but really my attraction with him was we came up the same way in the NFL. He started from the bottom like I did and worked his way up incrementally over the time. I have a lot of respect for that, a lot of guys that can persevere through some tough times and they do not they are advancing as quick as other people are but they just do the work. They just do the work, and they get ready. When it came his time to be a coordinator, he shined. and all of that work paid off. When he became a head coach, he shined and all of that hard work paid off. I have a lot of respect for that. I think if any of those three had not been in place, maybe it would not have been attractive, but those three pieces made it a very attractive job, not just for me but I think around the league.”

On if he ‘thinks he can get two or three sacks out of DE Myles Garrett’:

“We are going to work real hard at it. He is going to play his part. I have been very fortunate over my career to be blessed with some really defensive linemen. We run a very D line friendly scheme that eliminates a lot of conflict for those guys, and we were able to play guys off of that. We sort of let those guys go and be disruptive. I know this, over the course of my career I have talked to a lot of offensive coaches and I have talked to a lot of quarterbacks over the years, and the way you affect the game the most in this league is by pass rush. It is hard to win in coverage. The rules have changed. They make it hard to put hands on guys – illegal contacts, ICTDH, DPIs and all of those things. It is hard, and these guys, these wide receivers are freak shows. You can still win one on one on pass rush, and a devasting pass rush goes a long way. You can create turnovers off of pass rush. If you can rush with four, it allows your blitz game to be so much more effective because you start blitzing on your terms as opposed to on the offense’s terms. You do not have to blitz just to get pressure. You can blitz based on the situation and based on the person as opposed to being forced to blitz to get pressure. Whether going back to my first years at Tennessee of having (former NFL players) Jevon Kearse, Kevin Carter, (Albert) Haynesworth, (Kyle) Vanden Bosch and all of those guys in between and the guys I had in Detroit and Buffalo – man, we had a crowd in Buffalo. Philly, just ended up having four double-digit sackers I think we would have – (former NFL DT) Kyle Williams missed I think three or four games with a high ankle – we had three double-digit sackers up front. We hardly ever had to blitz to get pressure. Philadelphia, we based it the same way. We are going to put a lot of emphasis on pass rush, and Myles is a guy… When I was in Detroit, we always knew that every defensive plan started with how do we keep (Pro Football Hall of Fame WR) Calvin Johnson from taking this game over. That was job one – How do we keep that? It allowed you to play at different ways. You knew they were going to do stuff to take him away. I think that every offense we will play will probably start with that – how do we neutralize Myles Garrett and how do we keep him from wrecking this game? It is my job to give him some answers and to be able to put some pieces scheme wise and personnel wise around him to allow him to be free and more productive. When I say more productive, what? [16] sacks? That answers your question; the bar is set really high for a good reason.”

On if the Browns need to acquire bigger LBs:

“We played with a lot of different style guys over time. I think the things that make the most difference when it comes to linebackers are instincts, communication ability and explosiveness. I played with some guys that have been in the low 220s. In Tennessee, (Titans ILB) David Long is outstanding, and he is 215 pounds. There have been plenty of guys in the NFL that have played light. Go back to (Pro Football Hall of Fame OLB) Derrick Brooks and remember him coming out – is he a safety or linebacker? He was just a cobra, and he could strike. I have seen some 250-pound guys that did not have the physical presence on the field, and I have seen some guys in their 215s or 220s that did. I think it falls to the other things. It comes from toughness, instincts, explosiveness and the ability to play fast and think quick. I would say this, I have had a lot of defenses over the years since 2001, and some of them have been real good and not all of them have, but the thing I have taken the most pride from is when people say that we play fast and aggressive. Now, again, I am sitting up here and there is not one defensive coordinator that is going to come up and say we want to play slow, slow and soft – ‘Hey look, we are looking to be dumb, slow and soft (laughter).’ Everybody wants to be smart, fast and physical, butt just does not happen. There is a way that you can facilitate that. I have sort of learned that over the years. If you see our linebackers here, if I am doing a good job, they are playing fast and physical and there is not a lot of hesitation in their play. When that is all said and done, it does not matter if they are 200 pounds or 250 pounds. Let’s not get above 250. Let’s try to keep it below that.”

On his philosophy to building his defensive coaching staff:

“It is not my staff. It is Kevin’s staff. He has hired me to be the defensive coordinator. That is all I can really say there. Over the years, I have had jobs… When I got hired in Philadelphia as defensive coordinator, I was the last guy hired and I had never worked with any of the coaches before. We got up to speed pretty quickly and flipped that defense pretty quickly and won the Super Bowl the next year. Buffalo was similar. I have also had [times] where I have had a lot of input. I have done it a lot of different ways. When it is all said and done, that is Kevin’s job, along with Andrew and along with the Haslams. They are the people making staffing decisions, not me. My job, I would say this, there is a player component to coaching players and I think I am pretty good at coaching coaches into what they are being asked to do and how it fits in with what we are going to do. I think I have developed that over the years. I was not always good at it. I was probably pretty crappy at it early. As you do it for a while, you get good at that and being able to coach the coaches into what we do and maybe it is a little different than they have done before. I think I can bring that to the equation, but I would let Kevin answer those other questions.”

On how familiar he is with the Browns defense and how much research he did on prior to his interview:

“A little bit. It happened pretty quickly after the season so I probably did not do as much, but I looked at enough games that I had at least a little of an opinion about what happened. I was in Tennessee last year. We will keep an open mind. We will keep an open slate. What we will do and what players will play will really be dependent on how they do in the offseason program, what they look like in OTAs and how we develop in training camp. It is not going to be based on what happened last year.”

On his approach to communication and accountability as a defensive coordinator:

“I think that all starts with trust. I have said this over the years, players really don’t care whether you are young or old, black or white, loud or quiet. If you can help them, they will listen. If they know you are coming from an honest spot and you are telling them the truth, they might not like what you say, but they will take it because they know it is coming from a performance base and it is coming from the truth. Establishing trust is job No. 1. That is probably the biggest thing. Being able to put things they do in perspective, even historical perspective, and being able to say, ‘Hey look, this worked for this player in the past. I think this can help.’ I think that kind of communication is important when it comes to dealing with players. Again, it is stuff that you learn over the years. May he rest in peace, but the guy I learned the most from in how to handle and how to deal with players was (former NFL and former Chiefs Head Coach) Gunther Cunningham. Gun was my linebackers coach when I was in Tennessee in my first year as a coordinator. He had been a head coach and a coordinator, and just watching the way that he could just lay waste to a guy and then turn around and walk off the field and be laughing and hugging the guy because it was all a performance to Gun. It had nothing to do with knowing his wife or his kids, and the guys knew that and they took a lot of confidence in the fact it was business. He was not going to pull a punch because it was a favorite player, and he was not going to be hard on a guy because he maybe did not like the guy as much. It was about performance. Just that way that he had, I learned awful lot, and I learned a lot from guys over the years, just about how to connect with guys. At this point in my career, I have probably spent more time doing that than actually doing schemes. Scheme wise, there is probably not a whole lot we will do here that a high school coach probably could not draw up just as good. That is not the secret sauce. The secret sauce is getting guys playing together and that accountability that goes into it. I will say this, if I am doing a good job, we will hold our best players the most accountable. If you start from that position, then everything else is gravy. If you do not hold your best players most accountable, then you can have some bad vibes and different things can go on because they know like, ‘Hey, you are coaching that guy and you said that to him because he is an undrafted free agent as opposed to a first-round draft pick, a high-priced free agent or a veteran player.’ If I am doing a good job here, we will coach the undrafted free agent the same way we do the veteran player who has been to multiple Pro Bowls. When other players see you do that, I think it gives them confidence. Like I said, you hold your best players the most accountable. Plus, it gives those guys a little bit of pride in knowing that they are coached the same way. (Former NFL S) Malcolm Jenkins is one of my favorite players I have ever coached. The smartest guy, he could go a whole year without making a mistake. He could play seven different positions. I used him as a sounding board on a lot of things, and his information meant a lot. His ears on the field, he could come off the field and say, ‘Hey, we are having trouble with that’ or things that you maybe do not know because you are not out there. Just trusted him so much in doing all of those things. We played a game one time just coming off the Super Bowl, we played a game down in Tampa, and he sort of cheated on a play early in the game – it might have been the first play – and we gave up a big play. He cheated on the post. I know what he saw and I know why he did it but sort of went outside the scheme a little bit to cheat it and gave up a big play and sort of hung a corner out to dry, and we do not show players up. You will not see this with my guys. We went on and played the next play. Monday or Tuesday, we were getting ready for our meeting. I pulled him aside before because he was a veteran player, and I said, ‘Hey, Jenks. You know I have to get you for that play. We are going to watch it in front of the group. You know I have to get you.’ He said, ‘Don’t you dare treat me like you would any other player.’ That is a guy that I had incredible respect for, and his attention to detail was meticulous. His work ethic was unbelievable. His character, everything about that guys was just… One of my favorite guys I have ever coached. To hear him say that, I was just trying to give him a heads up. ‘Hey look, it is coming man. It is coming. I have to do it.’ Just to hear him say, ‘No, I would not want it any other way.’ You get guys like that, you can coach the hell out of them and you will have good leadership and accountability. Again, if I do a good job, you will see stuff like that.”

On if he has learned anything from his previous stops about how he will approach this first season in Cleveland:

“Yeah, I think part of that is you do change with times. You find new ways to communicate. You learn from your mistakes. I am sure articles you have written you go back in 1993 and look at some of your articles and you probably wince and you say, ‘Boy, I screwed that up.’ I do the same thing. You learn from your failures. Failure is a wicked teacher. It is a strong teacher. Some mistakes you have to make yourself. Your life is a cumulative whatever of the mistakes you have made in the past. Again, sometimes it is easier to learn from mistakes, but you also have to go with your fastball. If you are always trying to throw junk – you guys will find that I have a lot of baseball analogies – but if you have a good fastball, trust it. Go bust them on the knuckles and make them hit 99. Don’t speed your bat up by throwing too many changeups. Part of it is being who you are and having the confidence to be who you are. I think I have done that over the years. Like I said, there are plenty of ways to work around things and everything, but if you’re consistent, I think from a player being a coach is a little bit like being a parent; you have to be consistent; if you establish rules, you have to enforce them; and kids take a lot of their cues from that. I think players do, too. I have become less reactionary over the years. I am pretty good at keeping my eye on that point on the horizon and just keeping the boat right on that point and not paddling too hard on one side and going here and then going there and then you are not making any progress. I think I have improved that way over the years. I can still get after it, but maybe in a different way than I have in the past.”

On if he missed not being a defensive coordinator the past few years, understanding the health issues:

“No because I have enjoyed every role I have had in football. Whether I was a graduate assistant, a position coach, and unpaid intern, the head coach or the defensive coordinator, I have enjoyed every bit of it. That is why I decided to make a career in football is because I enjoyed every little aspect about it. My role was different. My job was to be a good mentor. My job was to give an extra set of eyes. My job was to make suggestions and not be ruffled if they weren’t acted on. My job was not to be the coordinator, but my job was to help the coordinator and help the position coaches. Maybe say, ‘Hey look, you do it this way. I have had success doing it this way in the past. You might want to try this.’ I think I was still able to make a contribution. I am incredibly grateful to Mike Vrabel for giving me the trust to do that and to (Titans defensive coordinator) Shane (Bowen) for trusting me to do that. They knew I didn’t have any objective other than to help and to win. My job was to do a good job at the job they gave me, and that was that so it was fulfilling.”

On how analytics has evolved as a tool in the NFL during his career and if there is too much information available to coaches in the league now:

“I don’t know that there is ever too much information. Any decision you want to make, more information is better. I do think this, the balancing act there is separating signal from noise. It is gleaning what is important, what helps make decisions and what helps put the players in position and not slow anybody down with that stuff. What is the saying? Paralysis by analysis. I think that’s a real thing. I think you can get a little too bogged up in that, but I’m a big fan of information and all of the information. We are going to use whatever we can get if it helps us to a decision, it helps us streamline communication and allows players to play faster and coaches to coach better. Yeah, I am all for that stuff. I did do a lot of that stuff here, but it wasn’t anything new. Maybe it is under a different package now and it is done a little bit different, but coaches have been using analytics as long as the ball has been pigskin and laced there has been some version of analytics. I think it is an important tool to help you to good decision and help you to be more productive. Like an artist, I do think that it is not always paint by numbers. That has never made a good artist. Sometimes you have to color outside the lines, and sometimes it is use some structure within what you are doing. I would say that I have learned that.”

Closing statement:

“Sorry for the long-winded stuff, and I do want to say what an honor it is to be back in Northern Ohio here. When the team left and went to Baltimore, I went with them. We all knew that it wasn’t the last Cleveland was going to see football. It wasn’t goodbye. It was just so long until we see you again. To be back amongst the passionate fans in the Midwest, you want to coach where fans are passionate. I have been very fortunate. Philadelphia? OK, check. We knew we had that. Detroit, yes. Buffalo, I have had some great stops that way and Tennessee. You embrace that part of it. I think that is an important part of our process and that is an important part of what the organization goes to. I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to the fans here to get this right and to reward them because I will forget most plays of the Super Bowl that I was with the Eagles – I forget just about every play in that game – but what I won’t forget is that parade afterwards. It is indelible in my mind. I will never forget. In my mind, there is only one place that would outdo that parade in Philadelphia, and we are here right now. I am really excited about getting to work, and it is an honor to have Dino look over this proceeding, too. Thanks, guys!”

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Story originally appeared on Browns Wire