Jim Schwartz capped off his first year as defensive coordinator with the Browns with an accolade to acknowledge all that the Browns defense accomplished during the 2023 season.
On Thursday at NFL Honors, Schwartz was named the AP Assistant Coach of the Year. He was among five finalists nominated for the award.
"Coach (Jim) Schwartz, so well deserved, Assistant of the Year," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "What he was able to accomplish in year one with this defensive staff, with these players was truly historic. I'm so proud of coach and I'm so proud that."
From Schwartz's first day as a member of the Browns' coaching staff throughout the course of the season, Stefanski remarked how invaluable Schwartz was to him. He could bounce ideas off Schwartz with his history as a head coach, coordinator and his Super Bowl experience over his 28-year coaching career. Stefanski saw Schwartz' expertise play out in the success of their defense over the course of the season.
Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry said in his end-of-season press conference also praised Schwartz for how he revitalized the Browns defense. Schwartz built a defense with a philosophy focused on attacking, getting after the quarterback and rushing the passer – and his influence on the defense was abundant.
For Berry, it was Schwartz's approach of aggressiveness, disruption and dictating what opposing offenses were able to do on a weekly basis. He watched how the players embraced the style of football as well as found a way to have fun playing in that style.
"Just the Schwartz impact on our organization and our team," Berry said. "And not just what Jim and the defensive staff were able to do with a dominant and historic defense, but in the building his impact spans far beyond just getting the guys ready to play on the field. He's an incredible organizational partner, an incredible human being, cares about our players, cares about our staff. We are very, very fortunate to have him as a part of our team."
In his first season with the Browns as defensive coordinator, the Browns led the NFL in multiple categories, including total defense and passing defense. They allowed an average of 270.2 yards per game – which were the fewest yards allowed in the NFL since the 2014 Seahawks allowed 267.1. It was also the fewest yards allowed by a Browns team since 1957. They allowed an average of 164.7 passing yards per game, the fewest passing yards allowed in the league this season.
The Browns led the NFL in third down percentage at 29.1 percent. They only gave up 67 of 230 third-down attempts. Cleveland allowed just 253 total first downs, 45 less than the Jets who finished second in the NFL.
They also established a culture on the defense of celebrating both their individual and collective successes, and it translated to the field in their on-field and sideline celebrations. They emphasized owning the intangibles of passion, toughness, effort and swag that the players embodied on the field. They saw Schwartz as a natural leader and finds ways to articulate his message that motivates the players in practice, a walkthrough or a game.
"I can't say enough great things about Coach Schwartz," CB Denzel Ward said on Jan. 14. "He's done a lot. Just helped build the camaraderie on this team and help us grow, changed our defense into being the number one defense in the NFL. So, he's a great coach and he's done a lot for myself and what were able to do this year. So, looking forward to continuing to work with him and he's a great coach."