BEREA, Ohio (AP)Other than swiping Bill Belichick’s turkey slices, Jim Schwartz stayed quiet and useful during his first stint in Cleveland. He had a lot to learn.
An unpaid intern for the Browns in the early 1990s, Schwartz ran errands and did whatever was needed while soaking in all he could from a coaching staff that included Belichick and Nick Saban.
He’s back 30 years later to fix the defense.
Schwartz, who has been a successful coordinator at three previous stops, was introduced Wednesday as the new defensive boss in Cleveland, where he’ll try to improve a unit most responsible for the team’s disappointing 7-10 season.
Along with his impressive resume, which includes a Super Bowl win with Philadelphia, the 56-year-old Schwartz brings a track record of toughness. And while he might not be as fiery as he was earlier in his career, Schwartz promised his passion hasn’t waned.
”I can still get after it,” he said.
The Browns are desperate for a defensive overhaul following a season in which there were myriad problems on the field along with concerns about a lack of leadership and culture issues inside the locker room.
Coach Kevin Stefanski fired coordinator Joe Woods following the season finale in Pittsburgh, and the first candidate he interviewed was Schwartz, who was a coordinator in Buffalo, Tennesee and Philadelphia before spending the past two seasons as a senior defensive assistant with the Titans.
”Coach Schwartz’s resume speaks for itself,” Stefanski said in welcoming Schwartz. ”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 we really believe he’s the guy to lead our defense.”
From the moment he took his seat at the dais, Schwartz reflected on his beginnings with the Browns.
He recalled how former media relations director Dino Lucarelli helped him buy his first sofa from Browns Hall of Fame wide receiver Dante Lavelli, who owned a furniture store in the area. He talked about finding a binder filled with Saban’s meticulous notes the coach left behind and that Schwartz used as a resource for years.
And he retold the story of how Belichick, working long hours one summer evening, couldn’t find the last of the turkey inside the kitchen refrigerator when he noticed Schwartz munching on a sandwich.
”He just sort of gives me this bad look and just shakes his head and says something under his breath and leaves,” Schwartz said with a smile.
It has all come full circle.
”Even though I have a degree from Georgetown,” Schwartz said. ”I got my degree in football-ology, a Ph.D. in football-ology from the Browns and from Bill Belichick.”
Schwartz is in the early stages of learning about Cleveland’s personnel and breaking down all that went wrong in 2022. He didn’t make any predictions or unveil specific plans. He’s eager to work with Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett, and made it clear he’ll treat the team’s stars and second stringers the same.
”The secret sauce is getting guys playing together and that accountability that goes into it,” he said. ”If I’m doing a good job, we’ll hold our best players the most accountable. And if you start from that position, then everything else is gravy.”
More than anything, Schwartz, who took over a winless Detroit team in 2009, wants to help deliver a Super Bowl title to Cleveland’s passionate fans.
He did that with the Eagles, who won it all in 2017.
”You want to coach where fans are passionate,” he said. ”So you embrace that part of it. And I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to the fans here to get this right and to reward them. Because 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.
”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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