PHILADELPHIA -- Jim Schwartz talked about adjusting his defense to fit the personnel on the day he was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles.
When Schwartz, the team's new defensive coordinator, appeared on 97.5 The Fanatic on Wednesday, his comments raised an interesting point -- one that may sum up why Chip Kelly’s tenure as head coach ultimately failed.
Kelly always talked about the way he adapted his offense to fit the available personnel. It started with the quarterback. Kelly said he wouldn’t run the same offense with Nick Foles that he did at Oregon with Marcus Mariota. But he would also adapt based on what he had available at running back and wide receiver.
That was smart. It made sense. It showed Kelly had a keen understanding of how to win in the NFL.
Meanwhile, when Kelly got to Philadelphia, he was 100 percent determined to run a 3-4, two-gapping defensive scheme. It didn’t matter that the locker room was filled with players assembled to play in a 4-3 scheme the Eagles had been running for ages.
The transition meant that a number of players had to change positions, abandoning a spot they were drafted to fill and moving to one that didn’t necessarily suit them. Trent Cole went to two Pro Bowls as a pass-rushing defensive end. Suddenly, he was asked to cover running backs in the passing game.
Some players made the adjustment and did very well. Fletcher Cox moved from defensive tackle to defensive end and went to the Pro Bowl this year. Cole and Brandon Graham had some success as outside linebackers. But the bottom line is the players were shoehorned into spots, rather than designing the defense around the talents of the players.
“Just about everything that we’re going to do defensively hasn’t been determined yet,” Schwartz told 97.5 host Anthony Gargano. “Other than a philosophy -- attack and try to be around the quarterback. Exactly how we use each guy is going to be determined on what they do in OTAs, what they do in training camp.
“I think you make a mistake if you predetermine, go in with a scheme and say this is what we’re going to do scheme-wise. I think the best system is to find out what the players do the best.”
Schwartz said he took this job partly because he liked what he saw of the personnel. It’s not a coincidence that the Eagles almost immediately started talking about a contract with defensive end Vinny Curry, one of the players most out of place in the 3-4 scheme.
“The thing I like about Vinny is Vinny is a really hardcore competitor,” Schwartz said. “You have to be a competitor to get to the quarterback. It’s very rare that you just beat your guy clean, very rare that you’re just free to the quarterback. Most sacks are due to work ethic.
“There were some guys that fit well in the defense here last year. I think he was one guy that really wasn’t a great fit. He played in that square stance. They played (him) at the line of scrimmage, a lot of two-gap (technique).
“That has proven to be an effective system, also. But it didn’t really fit Vinny that well. I think we can take the handcuffs off him, so to speak, and cut him loose along with the other guys up front.”
It all makes perfect sense. It made sense to Kelly when it came to his offense, but not so much when it came to his defense. And that's one of the main reasons the Eagles stumbled this year.