Top Takeaways: The Schwartz is strong with the Browns

BEREA, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – A day after agreeing to take the job, Jim Schwartz officially signed on to take over as defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.

Schwartz was introduced Wednesday afternoon by head coach Kevin Stefanski.

“Coach Schwartz's resume speaks for itself,” Stefanski said. “He's somebody that I have a ton of respect for. We did not know each other personally, really before this process, but we have a lot of mutual friends, and I've admired his career from afar. He has done it at a high level at multiple stops and just pleased and we really believe he's the guy to lead our defense and we're excited to add him to our staff.”

Schwartz had a lot to say during his 40-minute press conference so here are our Top Takeaways from a nostalgic trip down memory lane and what exactly Schwartz hopes to bring back with him to Cleveland.

1. Channeling Stefanski’s introductory presser in January 2020: Spaceballs references welcomed. Production is mandatory. Never underestimate the power of The Schwartz!

2. After the comical at times end of season presser where both Stefanski and Andrew Berry seemed to be in quite the jovial mood considering they underachieved for the second year in a row, Schwartz’s presser got the Browns back in the win column and they are officially 1-1 in 2023 offseason pressers, for those keeping score at home.

3. Schwartz is back where it all began for him in 1993 as a personnel scout under Bill Belichick – 76 Lou Groza Blvd. Berea, Ohio. “The building's changed a whole lot, but I think the ghosts have all stayed here,” Schwartz said. The team’s facility, which to this day remains a never-ending construction site, has changed quite a bit since Schwartz last worked in it full time. “I just got here last night and probably tonight about 8:00 at night when everybody's gone, I'm going to walk around the building probably a dozen times and try to figure my way around so I can get a little bit of ease of operation,” Schwartz said. “It's a great facility. I've been around a bunch of them. It's a great facility. Makes it easy to be able to do your work as a coach. It's really a tribute to ownership.”

4. Schwartz was nostalgic after being introduced by Stefanski. When he sat down in front of the microphone, he looked up and saw Dino Lucarrelli’s picture hanging on the wall in the back of the media room, which bears Lucarrelli’s name. “Dino meant a lot to me early my career,” Schwartz said. “He used to sit out and practice and talk to him, and it's awesome to see his name up here and to come full circle that way.” Schwartz then told the story of how Lucarrelli set him up with Dante Lavelli, who owned a furniture store, so he could buy a couch for his apartment. Lucarrelli, who served as the franchise’s longtime publicity, media and alumni relations representative for nearly 40 years and kept the team archives alive during the 1996-1999 hiatus, retired in 2013.

5. One more piece of nostalgia – As an unpaid intern, Schwartz accidently ate Bill Belichick’s sandwich after minicamp ended in 1993 and he still lives to tell the tale. “As I'm biting into this turkey sandwich, in comes Bill. And it was obvious he had been working the whole day, but he was holed up in his office and I'd barely even met him,” Schwartz said. “I'm just having my turkey sandwich and he just gives it the ‘hey, how’s it going?’ ‘I’m fine coach’ So I'm doing this [sheepishly eating his sandwich], and he goes and opens the refrigerator and starts opening drawers and looking, and he looks over at me, he goes, ‘Hey, you seen the Turkey?’ And I was like, ‘I just used the last of it coach.’ And he just sort of gives me this bad look and just shakes his head and says something under his breath and leaves. And I'm just like, I called home afterwards, it's like, ‘hey, my flight arrives at 9:30 and I might not have a return flight after that.’”

6. Schwartz explained that health issues forced him to step away and into semi-retirement. “I couldn't cheat the game, I couldn't give a substandard performance,” Schwartz said. “It wasn't fair to the organization, it wasn't fair to the players, it wasn't fair to the other guys on the coaching. It was a very difficult decision, but I had to step away and the Titans and Mike Vrabel were very gracious to give me an opportunity to still contribute while I was sort of dealing with that stuff. But I feel good, I'm ready to go again.”

7. It is easy to see why and how Schwartz has been so successful turning woeful defenses around in a short amount of time in Tennessee, Buffalo and Philadelphia. Expectations to do it here in Cleveland this coming season are pretty high.

8. Myles Garrett, who is coming off back-to-back 16 sack seasons, is going to love playing for Schwartz once the two get on the same page. It is clear Schwartz and Garrett will be having a lengthy conversation that will not only include how Garrett will benefit from Schwartz, but also what Schwartz will expect of Garrett going forward, beyond racking up a bunch of sacks. “I think that every offense we'll play will probably start with that – ‘How do we neutralize Myles Garrett and how do we keep him from wrecking this game?’ And it's my job to give him some answers and to be able to put some pieces scheme wise and personnel wise around him to allow him to be free and more productive,” Schwartz said. “The bar is set really high for a good reason.”

9. The Browns’ Spiderman meme defense is dead. It is doubtful we will see many corners and safeties pointing at each other following breakdowns going forward.

10. With Schwartz in charge of the defense, everyone on that side of the ball starts 2023 with a clean slate. “What we'll do and what players will play will really be dependent on how they do in the offseason program and what they look like in OTAs and how we develop in training camp,” Schwartz said. “It's not going to be based on what happened last year.”

11. Schwartz values trust, which in turn leads to players responding on the field. “Players really don't care if you're young, old, if you're black, white, if you're loud, if you're quiet. If you can help them, they'll listen,” Schwartz said. “And if they know you're coming from an honest spot and you're telling them the truth – they might not like what you say, but they'll take it because they know that it's coming from a performance base and it's coming from the truth. So establishing trust is job one.”

12. Browns players lacked an honest connection to Joe Woods, which led to a lot of mistrust and bellyaching about assignments and scheme, which then led to catastrophic breakdowns during games the last two seasons. If Schwartz follows through with what he said Wednesday, we won’t see much of that going forward. “I think that that kind of communication is important when it comes to dealing with players,” Schwartz, who credited the late Gunther Cunningham for teaching him the people skills required in the NFL, said. “Just watching the way that he could just lay waste to a guy and then turn around and walk off the field and be laughing and hugging the guy because it was all performance to Gun. It had nothing to do with knowing his wife or his kids. And the guys knew that, and they took a lot of confidence in the fact that he was, it was business. He wasn't going to pull a punch because it was a favorite player and he wasn't going to be hard on the guy because he maybe didn't like the guy as much. It was about performance.”

13. Everyone will be held to the same standard of accountability. Period. “We'll hold our best players the most accountable,” Schwartz said. “And if you start from that position, then everything else is gravy. But if you don't hold your best players most accountable, then you can have some bad vibes and different things can go on because they know, hey, you're coaching that guy because he's an undrafted [player]. You said that to him because he's an undrafted free agent as opposed to a high first-round draft pick or a high-priced free agent or a veteran player. If I'm doing a good job here, we'll coach undrafted free agents, same way we do the veteran player that's been to multiple Pro Bowls. And when the other players see you do that, I think it gives them confidence.”

14. Expect the Browns to generate their pass rush without blitzing like mad under Schwartz. “You don't have to blitz just to get pressure,” Schwartz said. “You can blitz based on the situation, based on the personnel, as opposed to being forced to blitz to get pressure.”

15. Size at linebacker does not matter to Schwartz as much as it does some fans and media. “I think the things that make the most difference when it comes to linebackers is instincts and communication ability and explosiveness,” Schwartz said. “There have been plenty of guys in the NFL that played light.”

16. Experience is the best teacher and for Schwartz, he’s learned a lot over the last 30 years. He’s been a sponge everywhere he has worked starting with Belichick in Cleveland. He’s also reflected more on his own professional shortcomings rather than successes “Failure is a wicked teacher. It's a strong teacher,” Schwartz said. “Some mistakes you have to make yourself. Your life is cumulative, whatever of the mistakes that you've made in the past, and again, sometimes it's easier to learn from mistakes.”

17. Schwartz has the reputation of having a fiery personality, a stark contract to the calm, cool, collected, nothing seems to bother him Stefanski. But Schwartz has calmed down in recent years. “If you establish rules, you have to enforce 'em, and kids take a lot of their cues from that and I think players do too,” Schwartz said. “I've become less reactionary over the years. I'm pretty good at keeping my eye on that point on the horizon and just keeping the boat right on that point and not paddling too hard on one side and going here and then going there and then you're not making any progress. So I think I've improved that way over the years. I can still get after it, but maybe in a different way than I have in the past.”

18. In addition to the instantaneous respect that Schwartz will command and the accountability he plans to instill in his players, Schwartz brings with him something so few can or have to Berea since 1999 – a link to the original Browns franchise. This expansion version of the Browns has been an unmitigated disaster full of failure and change. It has been an insult to the original 1946-1995 franchise that produced eight championships and 16 Hall of Famers. Schwartz, who moved with the team to Baltimore and became the Ravens linebackers coach, has first-hand knowledge of how it used to be and should be again. “I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to the fans here to get this right and to reward them,” Schwartz said. “I'll forget most plays of the Super Bowl that I was [in] with the Eagles, I'll forget just about every play in that game, but what I won't forget is that parade afterwards. It's indelible in my mind. I'll never forget it. And in my mind, there's only one place that would outdo that parade in Philadelphia and we're here right now.”

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