The Buffalo Bills announced on Friday evening that the team has hired former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz to be its new defensive coordinator. Schwartz replaces Mike Pettine, who on Thursday was named the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
Schwartz, 47, had been the Lions' head coach for the past five seasons prior to his ouster in late December following Detroit's disappointing 7-9 finish. In his five seasons in that job, the Lions appeared in the playoffs once (in 2011) and were 29-51 overall.
Prior to his becoming the Lions' head coach in 2009, Schwartz spent eight seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans, where he worked under Jeff Fisher. In those eight seasons, the Titans finished ranked in the Top 10 in the league's defense rankings three times, and were ranked in the top six in run defense on five separate occasions - including his first three years on the job, and in the final two prior to his leaving for Detroit.
In Tennessee, Schwartz ran a 4-3 defense, where he and defensive line coach Jim Washburn (who is still in Detroit) made notable use of the "Wide 9" alignment. Lining speed rushers up well outside of the tight end in an effort to better rush the passer, the alignment turned players like Jevon Kearse, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril into double-digit sack artists, but also drew criticism in recent seasons in Detroit for springing leaks against the run thanks to widened gaps on the defensive line. The system he ran in Tennessee, and then preserved under Gunther Cunningham's guidance in Detroit, is quite different than the system Pettine installed in Buffalo last season.
It's unclear whether or not Schwartz will continue his use of that alignment in Buffalo - given his track record with it, it's impossible to write off that probability - but having learned under Gregg Williams, Schwartz's defenses are also known for their aggressiveness. That element, at least, will be preserved as the Bills transition to a new system.