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7 defensive coordinator options for the Eagles if Jim Schwartz isn’t back in 2020

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Philadelphia might have a new DC next season.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is reportedly under contract with Philadelphia for the 2020 season but he might not be returning to Doug Pederson’s staff.

The Cleveland Browns officially confirmed Schwartz is interviewing for their head coaching vacancy. It sounds like he has a real chance to get the job.

But even if Schwartz doesn’t become the Browns’ head coach, he still might not be back with the Eagles. Whereas Pederson confirmed that offensive coordinator Mike Groh and wide receivers coach Carson Walch will return in 2020, he was much more ambiguous about Schwartz’s standing. UPDATE: As I was writing this post, two national reporters put these tweets out around the same time:

The thinking here isn’t that the Eagles believe Schwartz is a bad defensive coordinator, because he’s not. The Eagles have allowed the fewest home points per game since Schwartz came to Philly in 2016. The Eagles have also allowed the fifth fewest overall points per game in that span.

The potential problem with Schwartz is that he may have worn out his welcome within the NovaCare Complex. Remember how back in 2017 there was a report that some Eagles players believed Schwartz was trying to overtake Pederson as head coach? That report was essentially swept under the rug with the Eagles having so much that year en route to a Super Bowl win.

But my understanding is that that report wasn’t off-base and that the Pederson and Schwartz relationship hasn’t always been so amicable (to put it lightly). My sense is that the Eagles would prefer Schwartz to get hired away so they don’t have to go through the optics of dismissing him.

And so let’s take a look at some candidates to replace Schwartz if he’s not back with the Birds in 2020.

MATT BURKE

The Eagles hired Burke to their coaching staff last offseason under the title “defensive special assistant.” At the time, it was said that Burke was joining the Eagles as a “top aide” to Schwartz. Here’s what we wrote about Burke last year:

Burke, 42, has previously worked with Schwartz. When Schwartz was defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans (2001 through 2008), Burke served as an administrative assistant (2004 through 2005) and defense quality control coach (2006 through 2008). Burke then joined Schwartz’s coaching staff in Detroit as the Lions’ linebacker coach (2009 through 2013).

After Schwartz’s staff was fired, Burke ended up coaching the Cincinnati Bengals’ linebackers for two years before joining Adam Gase’s Miami coaching staff in 2016. Burke was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2017 when Vance Joseph was hired away by the Denver Broncos.

For what it’s worth, the Dolphins’ 2018 defense ranked 25th in DVOA and the 2017 defense ranked 28th in DVOA. Not great! Unsurprisingly, Miami fans were not sad to see him go.

It seems like Schwartz might want to hire Burke to his coaching staff in Cleveland if he were to get the Browns’ head coaching job.

If not, the Eagles could look to promote Burke to defensive coordinator in order to keep some continuity, scheme-wise. The team could view that move as keeping the benefits of Schwartz’s system without having to deal with his challenging personality.

KRIS RICHARD

Richard’s contract with the Dallas Cowboys has expired so he’s a free agent. There’s been talk that the Cowboys want him back but is he going to want to return to Dallas? He won’t be defensive coordinator since Mike Nolan is getting that role.

Richard played cornerback in the NFL from 2002 through 2007 before getting into NFL coaching with the Seattle Seahawks in 2010. He worked his way up to being Seattle’s defensive coordinator from 2015 through 2017 before Pete Carroll fired him. Richard then joined the Cowboys’ coaching staff as their defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator for the past two seasons. Dallas ranked 9th in defensive DVOA in 2018 and then 19th in 2019.

The 40-year-old Richard has been a part of some successful defenses. He’s at least worth interviewing.

WADE PHILLIPS

A popular option among fans following his dismissal from the Los Angeles Rams. The 72-year-old Philips flamed out as a head coach but he has a reputation for being one of the league’s best defensive coordinators (sound familiar?).

I could easily be wrong but I don’t get the sense this is the direction the Eagles will be going. I don’t think the Eagles want to switch back to a 3-4 defense, which is Phillips’ preference.

GEORGE EDWARDS

Edwards, who turns 53 this month, has been coaching in the NFL ranks since 1998. He’s currently the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive coordinator and has been since 2014. But it sounds like he could be moving on:

Defensive-minded Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer calls plays for Minnesota. Edwards would have an opportunity for more responsibility in Philadelphia. Succeeding in Philly could give Edwards a better chance at landing a head coaching job in the future.

Here’s how the Vikings’ defenses have ranked in DVOA since 2014:

2014 — 23rd
2015 — 14th
2016 — 8th
2017 — 2nd
2018 — 4th
2019 — 7th

Edwards should draw the Eagles’ interest.

JOE WOODS

The 49-year-old Woods is a North Vandergrift, Pennsylvania native who currently serves as the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator. Woods was previously the Denver Broncos’ defensive coordinator in 2017 (10th in DVOA) and 2018 (5th in DVOA). He only lost his job due to Vance Joseph getting fired and the Broncos bringing in a new defensive-minded head coach in Vic Fangio.

Woods has a pretty good track record. Another strong candidate to replace Schwartz.

MARVIN LEWIS

Not sure if the former Cincinnati Bengals head coach would be interested in a defensive coordinator job. If he is, well, he could be worth interviewing. I think there are more attractive options on this list but Lewis does offer a lot of experience.

JOHN FOX

Speaking of more experienced candidates, here’s a name to watch. As The Athletic’s Bo Wulf noted, Fox visited Eagles training camp last year. He’s also a Bob LaMonte client, which is significant because that’s the same agent who represents both Pederson and Howie Roseman. Fox, 64, hasn’t been a defensive coordinator since 2001. The Eagles could be better served by going with a younger up-and-comer.


The Eagles don’t lack options to replace Schwartz. It’d be nice to see them acknowledge that they don’t always have the answers in-house and actually look outside the building for once. Edwards and Woods are the most interesting options to me. What say you?

Poll

Who should the Eagles hire to replace Jim Schwartz (if he’s not back)?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Matt Burke
    (149 votes)
  • 17%
    Kris Richard
    (922 votes)
  • 7%
    Wade Phillips
    (366 votes)
  • 34%
    George Edwards
    (1765 votes)
  • 17%
    Joe Woods
    (882 votes)
  • 8%
    Marvin Lewis
    (461 votes)
  • 8%
    John Fox
    (417 votes)
  • 4%
    Other (explain in the comments)
    (221 votes)
5183 votes total Vote Now