Jim Schwartz owes a lot to New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who brought Schwartz into the NFL in 1993 as an unpaid intern and later a college/pro scout when Belichick was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
That doesn't mean a whole hill of beans as Schwartz prepares his Eagles defense for Super Bowl LII against Belichick's Patriots. Instead, Schwartz is focused on defending an offense that features a bunch of weapons and is dangerous from anywhere on the field.
When asked on Tuesday at his NovaCare Complex press conference about the challenges of playing against quarterback Tom Brady, Schwartz instead answered with respect about the entire cast of New England's playmakers.
"I think you have to put that challenge to playing the Patriots' offense. No player stands on his own," Schwartz said. "I mentioned (tight end Rob) Gronkowski, (wide receiver Brandin) Cooks, (wide receiver Danny) Amendola's been mentioned, (wide receiver Chris) Hogan, (running back James) White, (running back Dion) Lewis. There are a million different guys in there. I'm sure somebody will say something because I slighted somebody, but you can't just – the NFL in general, but particularly the Patriots, you can't scheme for one player. If you do, then they have plenty of other players that can make plays.
"You have to do a good job against their entire offense, and you can't really make it about one person."
After a later-in-the-season sag, the defense surged in the final two regular-season games against Oakland and Dallas and then dominated in the NFC playoff wins over Atlanta and Oakland. Schwartz has made the most of his personnel, keeping his line fresh with a steady rotation, and integrating key pieces in situational spots.
A defense that welcomed some important new pieces this year, among them linemen Tim Jernigan, Chris Long, and Derek Barnett, linebacker Dannelle Ellerbe, and cornerbacks Patrick Robinson and Ronald Darby has come together at the most perfect time for the Eagles.
"I think that is a credit to the players; that you transition quickly. It's no secret that we're not (doing) brain surgery on defense. I think that helps a little bit. The current players do a really good job of indoctrinating the new players and helping them along with their communication," Schwartz said. "Some of the additions we've made have been veteran players that have been through a lot of the same things and it's not just a matter of learning, it's a matter of just picking up new terminology. Most of the techniques have been played before.
"I think being able to get up - I've never really felt that we were a work-in-progress, so to speak. I never really felt like there was a time, maybe after OTAs (Organized Team Activities) that we didn't have - that our players didn't have command of what we did. And I think that's a great compliment to the players. It's a hard-working bunch, not only physically, but also mentally and that's shown."