The addition of Jim Schwartz to the Tennessee Titans coaching staff is an interesting move in and of itself.
While the Titans under Mike Vrabel claim a multiple front look as their defensive scheme, that system is based in a 3-4 that has been in place ever since Dick LeBeau was defensive coordinator for Ken Whisenhunt and then Mike Mularkey.
It stayed that way through Dean Pees’ run as defensive coordinator and now on to Vrabel and his protégé, Shane Bowen.
Schwartz, who was the Titans defensive coordinator for eight seasons from 2001-2008, is deeply rooted in the 4-3 scheme that was designed to produce pressure without much blitzing. It also contained a lot of the elements of the wide-nine technique that Jim Washburn’s linemen liked to use on passing downs.
But beyond what type of system Schwartz is used to versus what Vrabel and Bowen prefer, Schwartz should bring a much needed sounding board and fresh ideas to a Titans defense that struggled a year ago to produce any pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Tennessee generated just 19 sacks a year ago, and Schwartz’s defenses over the years, whether it was with the Titans, his head coaching stint with the Detroit Lions or his later DC stops in Buffalo and Philadelphia, has been a guy who can scheme to get to the quarterback.
Make no mistake, this will be Bowen’s (or Vrabel’s) show on defense, but if Schwartz can bring creative ideas to the table and stick to his advisory role, this could work.
Also, Vrabel, who can also be a bit head strong at times, has to be open to listening to a veteran mind like Schwartz and be willing to implement the things he suggests.
And then there is Bowen, already a target in the mind of fans after last season’s defensive struggles. While he is still learning on the job, and even though he has the title of defensive coordinator, the key for him is to strike that balance – know when to listen, know when to delegate and know when to take charge.
As Schwartz comes back to the Titans, things have come full circle for him. When he first was promoted to linebackers coach under Jeff Fisher and Gregg Williams, he was the rising star. And after a few rough spots early in his tenure as the Titans DC, Schwartz blossomed under Fisher and with the able assistance of mentors like Gunther Cunningham and Dave McGinnis.
Now, it is Schwartz’s chance to be the mentor and sounding board for Bowen.
There are egos and personalities in the Titans defensive meeting room for certain. But how those egos co-exist, offer up ideas and work together could well be the key to the Titans defense showing improvement in 2021.
As Vrabel is so fond of saying, “Whatever is best for the team.”
The addition of Schwartz could be one of those types of moves.
Terry McCormick is the founder and editor of titaninsider.com and has covered the Tennessee Titans since 1997. TitanInsider.com was founded in 2010 and is one of the leading media outlets covering the local NFL team with a presence online, on social media, radio and television. TitanInsider.com is published in partnership with Main Street Media of Middle Tennessee.