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Jim Schwartz recalls memories from 1st NFL job with Browns, looks to create more as defensive coordinator

Schwartz’s career has come full circle as he looks to continue his coaching success with the Browns defense


On his first day on the job as the Browns' new defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz's mind couldn't stop running with memories about his first years working in the NFL as a personnel scout with the Browns from 1993-95.

Schwartz opened his press conference Wednesday by looking at the plaque of former Browns media relations director Dino Luccarelli in the back of the media room and recalling when he helped set him up with his first sofa in the NFL — "I was trying to furnish an apartment other than stuff that was at the dumpster."

Then, there was the time Schwartz kept a thick binder left behind one season by defensive coordinator Nick Saban. The binder was stuffed with notes and became a textbook of sorts for Schwartz as he continued to progress through the league's coaching ranks.

Oh, and he'll never forget about the time he used the last slices of turkey to make a sandwich. Schwartz thought he was the only person in the office that day and was looking for a meal, but he realized he was wrong when head coach Bill Belichick walked in and opened the fridge as he took his first bite. 

Belichick was in search of the turkey, too. When he asked Schwartz where it was, Schwartz felt his stomach drop and pointed to the sandwich in his hands.

"He just sort of gives me this bad look," Schwartz said. "Just shakes his head and says something under his breath and leaves."

Check out photos of Jim Schwartz speaking with the media after he was named the Browns' new defensive coordinator.

Schwartz earned back Belichick's trust throughout his role, which he started as an unpaid intern and finished three seasons later with a paltry salary of $20,000. His tasks included fetching cigarettes for secretaries, driving people to and from the airport and filing papers.

The dirty jobs belonged to him, but he also sat in on meetings and learned from some of the greatest minds of the sport. Saban, Kirk Ferentz, Al Groh and Eric Mangini were all on staff and later became NFL or college coaches. Ozzie Newsome, Mike Tannenbaum and Thomas Dimitrof were there, too, and became high-level NFL executives.

Thirty years later, Schwartz attributes all his success to those memories and lessons in Cleveland.

"I lived here at the office," he said. "Even though I have a degree from Georgetown, I got my degree in football-ology and a Ph.D. in football-ology from the Browns and from Bill Belichick."

Those memories were why Schwartz was happy to be back in Cleveland as he begins the role of defensive coordinator for the fourth time in his career.

His job? Fix a defense that was inconsistent for most of last season.

The Browns finished 19th in the league in yards allowed per game (331.2) and spent much of the first half of the year further behind in those rankings. They allowed the 25th-most rushing yards per game (135) and didn't transform into the top-tier unit the Browns believed they could become before the season began.

Schwartz's job in fixing that group will be much tougher than anything he did in his first job in Cleveland. But in the years since, he's proven capable of turning around defenses and maximizing talent of the group's best players.

As the defensive coordinator in Tennessee, Schwartz elevated the Titans' defense from 32nd in the league in yards allowed per game in 2006 to fifth in 2007. After the unit finished seventh in the league in 2008, Schwartz earned his first job as a head coach with the Lions in 2009.

When he returned to the defensive coordinator role with the Bills in 2014, he turned an already-solid defense that ranked 10th in the league in 2013 into the league's fourth-best defense.

His next coaching stop was also at defensive coordinator with Philadelphia in 2016, where he helped the Eagles rise from 30th in the league the year before his arrival to 13th in his first season. The following year, the defense ranked fourth in the league and took down Tom Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl LII for their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

What's been his biggest key in turning around a defense?

"I think that all starts with trust," he said. "If they know you are coming from an honest spot and you are telling them the truth, they might not like what you say, but they will take it because they know it's coming from a performance-base, and it's coming from the truth. Establishing trust is job No. 1."

Schwartz has that from head coach Kevin Stefanski, who said he has "admired his career from afar" and has "done it at a high level at multiple stops."

The highest level for a Schwartz-led defense was the Super Bowl year with the Eagles. Philadelphia defeated Minnesota, 38-7, in the NFC Championship Game that season when Stefanski was the QB coach for the Vikings.

Three weeks later, Schwartz was celebrating in his first-ever Super Bowl parade.

He's hoping for a second in the city where his career began.

"I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to the fans here to get this right and to reward them because I will forget most plays of the Super Bowl that I was with the Eagles — I forget just about every play in that game — but what I won't forget is that parade afterwards," he said. "It's indelible in my mind. I'll never forget.

"In my mind, there is only one place that would outdo that parade in Philadelphia, and we're here right now."