Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke with Bills beat reporters for the first time on Monday, and quickly got to work dispelling some notions about the defensive system he's bringing with him to Buffalo. Specifically, he addressed his association with the Wide 9, a term which has followed him since his days as a coordinator with the Tennessee Titans to his most recent job as head coach of the Detroit Lions.
"Mostly that's thrown around by people that couldn’t line it up if they wanted to," Schwartz said at his introductory press conference. "That’s no disrespect to those people, but there’s 32 teams in the NFL, and all 32 of them line up in a Wide 9. Not all of them are called Wide 9 teams, but that’s just the way it goes. That sort of developed because it fit our personnel, and it fit what our opponents did. You can dictate some things on defense with it, make it hard on offense. There’s some things that you need to constantly work because, like anything, it has strengths and it has weaknesses. It’ll certainly be part of our scheme here, but it won’t define our scheme."
Schwartz, hired on Friday after former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine became the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns, would not label his defense as any specific scheme - much like his predecessor did a little over a calendar year ago.
"We've never put a label on it," Schwartz said of the system. "It’s going to be opponent-specific. It’s going to be multi-dimensional enough to be able to do that - I mentioned before, trying to put players in good positions, and positions that fit their capabilities. We’re an attack scheme... whatever anybody wants to tag the system with as far as a name, it won’t be us."
Noting that he and Pettine are "different guys," Schwartz did mention that he and the rest of the coaching staff will be looking for ways to preserve at least some of what Pettine brought over from the New York Jets in 2013.
"We’re going to look very hard over the next few months at ways to keep as much continuity as we can," Schwartz said. "From a coaching standpoint, I think a lot of times it’s coaches adapting to players." He'd later continue, "I think the similarities you’ll see is it’ll be as aggressive as it can be, and we’ll try to be as physical as we can be, and also it’s going to be an attack style."
While Schwartz evaluates the old system and the team's personnel - he spoke glowingly of several key Bills defenders, mentioning the team's pass rushers and cornerbacks in particular - Marrone will continue to replace assistants that will soon join Pettine in Cleveland. At this point, three assistants are already gone (Jim O'Neil, Jeff Hafley and Brian Fleury), with a fourth (Anthony Weaver) likely to join them.
"We want people that want to be here. That’s the most important thing, and that’s the most important message," Marrone said Monday. "That’s one of the things why I’m excited about Jim. We talked to Jim. Jim wanted to be here. (New quarterbacks coach) Todd Downing wanted to be here. Those are the type of people that we’re looking for - people that can become part of the community, part of this region, be a positive influence on that, and at the same time get this football program back to where we all want it to be."
As for his hire of Schwartz, Marrone made it sound like an easy decision - he just looked for a guy that he didn't like coaching against.
"When you look at hiring defensive coordinators, you want to look at people that you don’t like going against their defense," Marrone said. "Jim’s defenses have always been very tough, very difficult to run on, very difficult to score on, they’ve been aggressive, and it’s been very tough to game plan against them."