NFL assistant coach of the year? It's Schwartz
When an NFL team hires Jim Schwartz, it is hiring a defensive coordinator who will scheme to pressure and sack the quarterback.
Inside of two seasons in Philadelphia, Schwartz crafted a defense that allowed the fourth fewest yards and fourth fewest points in the NFL this season – a reduction of almost 100 yards per game and 135 points from the defense he inherited in 2016.
That defense, especially in the playoffs, propelled the Eagles to the Super Bowl and earned Schwartz honors as the NFL’s assistant coach of the year, according to last week’s Talk of Fame Network poll. Schwartz received 40.2 percent of the vote to outdistance Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmer at 24.9 percent.
Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash, Rams special teams coach John Fassel, Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub rounded out the voting, all with single digit support.
The three Talk of Fame Network hosts were split in their voting with Ron Borges voting for Phillips, Rick Gosselin for John Fassel and Clark Judge for Schwartz.
“Wade is the defensive turnaround specialist,” Borges said, “and he did it again this year.”
Phillips changed the Rams from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 and a pass rush that generated 48 sacks, fourth best in the NFL, and helped propel Los Angeles to an NFC West title.
Under Schwartz, the Eagles controlled the line of scrimmage with its tackle tandem of Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan and also brought the heat off the edge with Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Vinny Curry and first-round pick Derek Barnett. Philadelphia led the NFL in run defense and finished fourth in the league with 31 takeaways. The Eagles then upset the Falcons and Vikings in the playoffs, holding Atlanta to 10 points and Minnesota seven. That playoff run to the Super Bowl impressed Judge.
“Jim Schwartz just proved that nobody outside the U.S. government is better at shutdowns,” Judge said.
Fassel also had a big hand in delivering the Rams that division crown, fielding the best special teams in the NFL – units that included four Pro Bowlers: kicker Greg Zuerlein, punter Johnny Hekker, return specialist Pharoh Cooper and deep snapper Jake McQuaide.
“The football adage is that special teams are a third of the game,” Gosselin said. “The Rams actually took that commitment seriously under Fassel.”