NASHVILLE, Tenn. — To the understandable delight of many fans, the Tennessee Titans are bringing Jim Schwartz back.
Schwartz, the Titans’ defensive coordinator from 2001-2008, will join head coach Mike Vrabel’s staff as a senior defensive assistant, the team said.
While this is a savvy move that will certainly help the Titans’ defense, it does not wipe away Vrabel’s mishandling of his defensive coaching staff during the offseason, particularly his decision to promote Shane Bowen to defensive coordinator.
Titans add Jim Schwartz as Senior Defensive Assistant
Details 📰 » https://t.co/ZiqjqSCVg1
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) April 7, 2021
Vrabel does deserve praise for bringing in Schwartz, which is a bit of an out-of-character decision from the Titans’ head coach.
Since taking over the Titans in 2018, Vrabel has generally preferred to hire coaches he’s coached with before or with whom he has a personal relationship. When coaches leave, he’s almost always promoted from within.
Schwartz, who’s spent the past five seasons as the Eagles’ DC, doesn’t fit that mold.
He’s never coached with Vrabel before, and it doesn’t appear that the two have any sort of notable prior relationship.
Those are positive developments.
It’s understandable that Vrabel prefers comfort and familiarity when making coaching hires, but, sometimes, coaches need to break out of their comfort zones. This is an example of Vrabel doing just that.
Schwartz will bring Vrabel and his staff an experienced outside voice with a history of success who can help the Titans fix the issues that led to their defense being one of the NFL’s worst in on third downs in 2020.
“We are excited to add Jim to our staff,” Vrabel said in a press release distributed by the Titans. “He has a deep level of football knowledge and has overseen a great deal of success on the defensive side of the ball, so it always good to add a quality coach to our staff.
“This role will provide our defensive staff with Jim’s experience and perspective in the staff meetings and on the practice field.”
Mike Vrabel said that, in searching for a defensive coordinator, the #Titans “interviewed quite a few people.”
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) April 5, 2021
Here’s the problem with that, though: the Titans shouldn’t need a consultant.
They shouldn’t need Schwartz to come in and point out all they’re doing wrong.
They shouldn’t need someone to help them assess how they can fix a system that appeared broken in 2021.
Unfortunately for the Titans, though, they do need all of those things because Vrabel promoted Bowen to defensive coordinator.
Bowen, the Titans’ outside linebackers coach from 2018-2020, called plays for the defense in 2020. He also ran the meetings. He was, essentially, the defensive coordinator, though he never had the title.
Now, thanks to Vrabel, he does have the title.
Given the chance to hit the reset button after a season in which the Titans’ top-five offense was wasted thanks to an inept defense, Vrabel chose to, mostly, maintain the status quo.
The question Titans fans should be asking about the Titans’ choice to bring Schwartz in as a senior assistant is: why isn’t Schwartz the defensive coordinator?
No valid argument exists in the universe in support of Bowen, whose one year as a play-caller yielded terrible results, being a better option than Schwartz, a 20-year play-caller with a Super Bowl ring.
Yet, the Titans chose Bowen.
Perhaps it’s possible that Schwartz, who reportedly contemplated retirement after the 2020 season, wasn’t interested in a DC job for 2021 and merely wanted a supplemental role.
Unless that turns out to be verifiably true, though, the Titans’ decision to bring him in should be met with skepticism.
Not skepticism over Schwartz’s ability, because he’s really good at what he does. Not skepticism over Vrabel branching out, because that’s a great development.
Rather, skepticism over the fact that Schwartz is needed at all. Because, if Vrabel had hired a coordinator capable of competently running a defense, he wouldn’t be.
- Vrabel image: Christopher Hanewinckel / USA Today
- Schwartz image: Kirby Lee / USA Today