BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot
The Buffalo Bills moved quickly after Mike Pettine’s departure and named Jim Schwartz as their defensive coordinator on Friday night.
The Bills also hired Todd Downing to be their quarterbacks coach, moving offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett away from the double duty he held in that role last season.
Schwartz was the head coach of the Detroit Lions for the past five seasons (2009-2013), a span over which he compiled a 29-51 regular season record and an 0-1 playoff record before being fired this offseason. His best season in Detroit came in 2011, when he led the Lions to a 10-6 record and their first playoff appearance since 1999.
“We are excited to add a talented and accomplished coordinator in Jim Schwartz to our staff,” Bills head coach Doug Marrone told BuffaloBills.com. “Schwartz has led aggressive and productive defensive units throughout his time in the NFL and we feel our defense will continue to improve under his leadership.”
In Buffalo, Schwartz will have to match his scheme to the Bills’ defensive personnel, which ran a hybrid, 3-4-based, pressure-heavy scheme under Pettine in 2013. While Schwartz is known for running his defenses out of a 4-3 base front, he told Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com in January 2013 that he is willing to be flexible in his approach:
“You also do that on a yearly basis,” Schwartz told Twentyman. “Part of it is also tied into personnel that you have and you want your schemes to match your personnel. You have a general philosophy, but there’s some flexibility within that philosophy.”
Schwartz’s defenses in Detroit often ran a “Wide 9″ scheme, in which the defensive ends line up outside the tight ends. It’ll be interesting to see if he looks to run this defense in Buffalo.
Schwartz’s record in Detroit may not be inspiring, but he did add plenty of talent to the Lions’ roster in his time in Detroit. Schwartz drafted Matthew Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Ezekiel Ansah and Larry Warford among others.
Before his stint in Detroit, Schwartz was the defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans from 2001-2008.
Downing was a member of Schwartz’s staff in Detroit for each of the past five seasons. He was the team’s quarterbacks coach for the last three.
Marrone told BuffaloBills.com that Downing is a “bright and energetic coach.”
“He is familiar with our personnel at the quarterback position and he will play a key role in the development of all of the quarterbacks on the Bills’ roster,” Marrone said. “He played a pivotal role in the development of Detroit’s quarterbacks during his tenure – most notably Matthew Stafford, the franchise’s all-time leading passer. Downing will be a valuable addition to our offensive coaching staff.”
Downing briefly worked with Bills starting quarterback EJ Manuel when the Lions coached the South squad in the 2013 Senior Bowl, and with backup quarterback Thad Lewis in the 2013 preseason before Detroit traded him to Buffalo. It is a possibility that one or both of those quarterbacks recommended Downing.
The hirings reunite Schwartz and Downing with Bills special teams coordinator Danny Crossman, who held the same position for the Lions from 2010-2012.