ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Jim Schwartz doesn’t expect continuity to be an issue in his new job with the Buffalo Bills.
Despite taking over as the team’s fourth defensive coordinator in four years, Schwartz stressed he has no intention of making drastic changes to his predecessor’s aggressive approach that made the Bills one of the NFL’s most feared pass-rushing teams last season.
“We’re an attack scheme. It’s a scheme built on the guys up front getting after the quarterback,” Schwartz said during his introductory news conference on Monday. “We’ll be fast. We’ll be physical. We want to attack. … There’s going to be a lot of defensive lineman that are real happy to play in a system like that.”
That should make Mario Williams, one of Buffalo’s three returning Pro Bowl defensive linemen, breathe a little easier.
Schwartz is happy, too.
A month after being fired as the Detroit Lions head coach, Schwartz’s decision to bide his time before making his next move paid off in landing a job he considers to be an ideal fit.
“You want to be very careful about your next opportunity, and I didn’t step into this lightly,” he said. “There’s a tremendous opportunity with the players that are in place.”
Schwartz replaces Mike Pettine, who left Buffalo after only one season to take over as the Cleveland Browns head coach. Pettine’s departure last week was unexpected and had the potential of undercutting whatever carry-over the Bills were seeking to build on following a 6-10 finish.
Though the Bills struggled against the run, their defense finished 10th in the NFL in yards allowed — Buffalo’s best ranking since a second-place finish in 2004. And Buffalo finished second in the league with a franchise-record 57 sacks.
Once Pettine indicated he was accepting the Browns position, Bills coach Doug Marrone wasted little time targeting Schwartz.
At the same time Pettine completing his deal in Cleveland on Thursday, Marrone and members of the Bills front office traveled to interview Schwartz for the job before reaching a deal a day later.
“When you’re looking to hire defensive coordinators, you want to look at people that you don’t like going against their defense,” Marrone said. “Jim’s defenses have always been very tough, very difficult to run on, very difficult to score on.”
Schwartz has 20 years of coaching experience including an eight-year stint as the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator from 2001-08.
The Titans’ defense three times finished among the NFL’s top 10 in fewest yards allowed. Tennessee was particularly stingy in stopping the run, finishing sixth or better in yards rushing allowed, including a first-place ranking in 2003.
Schwartz was inconsistent during five seasons in Detroit. He went 29-51, including a 10-6 finish in 2011 in which the Lions snapped a 12-year playoff drought.
In Buffalo, Schwartz’s immediate priority will be filling out his defensive staff.
Marrone said four Bills defensive assistants are expected to join Pettine in Cleveland. The group includes linebackers coach Jim O’Neil, who is expected to take over as Browns defensive coordinator, and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver.
Marrone also expected to lose defensive quality control coach Brian Fleury and newly hired assistant Jeff Hafley.
Veteran defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson is staying in Buffalo.
Schwartz’s defensive approach is rooted in a 4-3 system with some similarities to Pettine’s philosophy particularly when it comes to generating pressure off the edges.
Schwartz intends to spend the next few months adapting his defense to the strengths of his personnel.
“There’s going to be some carry-over. There’s going to be some things that we’ll wind up changing because we think it’s in our best long-term benefit,” Schwartz said. “We’re not going to be so complicated that they can’t pick things up. Whatever we keep, whatever we decide to change, there will be a reason behind it.”