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NFL head coaching vacancies: Breaking down Browns Jim Schwartz candidacy

A lot of NFL head coaching vacancies this year

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns made the playoffs this year. That was the good news. They were spanked by an opponent they had dominated during the regular season. Yes, the bad news.

A lot of NFL clubs would like to have that problem instead of sitting at home watching the playoffs on their ultra-wide QLED TV screens.

Then there is a second level to the NFL off-season which is considered the bottom-feeders. Several losing NFL clubs fired their head coaches with little to no chance of making the playoffs a reality. This year, there are eight head coaching job openings.

It began on November 1 when the Las Vegas Raiders axed Josh McDaniels after a 26-14 loss to the Detroit Lions on “Monday Night Football.” The defeat marked the second consecutive game in which the team’s offense sputtered and failed to get anything going. McDaniels is an offensive guy whose team now stood at 3-5-0 after going 10-7-0 the season before. Frank Reich got the boot from the Carolina Panthers on November 27 while the Los Angeles Chargers fired Brandon Staley on December 15.

On January 7 for traditional Black Monday, the Atlanta Falcons let go Arthur Smith, the Washington Commanders fired Ron Rivera the next day while the Tennessee Titans waited until January 9 to release Mike Vrabel followed by Pete Carroll’s ouster the very next day from the Seattle Seahawks. One day later, shock waves were felt when the New England Patriots announced they were mutually parting ways with Bill Belichick.

Other teams may part ways with their head coaches such as the Dallas Cowboys. This season under head coach Mike McCarthy they garnered the Number 2 seed plus captured the NFC East crown, yet lost in the first round of the playoffs – again. Dallas has gone 12-5-0 in the last three years, yet has lost early in the playoffs all three times. Sad to think that winning 12 games for three consecutive years isn’t enough, but McCarthy may be gone with another NFL head coaching vacancy on the horizon.

Could Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin take a year off before returning to another club and be paid a king’s ransom? What about the Buffalo Bills situation with head coach Sean McDermott? Is he safe, or does he have to win the Super Bowl after taking the reins in 2017 and still no championship belt?

So, the annual head coaching dance begins.

Former head coaches are interviewed along with numerous offensive and defensive coordinators who found accomplishment in their craft. It used to be that a coordinator had to have success for several years before he would get a nibble for a head coaching gig. But now, all it takes is one special season where it appears the coordinator struck magic on his side of the ball.

Then there is the debate of whether the new dude should be an offensive or a defensive guy. A lot of this depends upon the club’s general manager and owner who have their own vision of where the team should be headed. It could also have to do with the franchise’s quarterback situation in that a younger QB might need that extra offensive attention whereas a seasoned proven veteran’s club might lean towards a defensive mind to head up operations.

Chicago Bears v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

This all brings us to the Browns. Yes, we finally got there.

Cleveland DC Jim Schwartz did wonders with this defense this season. For most of the year, this group was ranked in the Top-5 in most categories and was Number 1 in a lot of categories every week.

Not some random analytics categories, but stats that matter like fewest total passing yards (ranked #2), most interceptions (#3), fewest completions (#1), net yards gained per pass attempt (#2), most fumble recoveries (#10), fewest rushing yards (#11), fewest rushes for first downs (#1), most pressures (#14), most knockdowns (#9), and most sacks (#6). In addition, this Browns defense led the league in the lowest percentage of drives ending in an offensive score with just 24.8%.

Schwartz took over a roster that had a good core base of talent in DE Myles Garrett, LB Anthony Walker, S Grant Delpit, LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and CB Denzel Ward.

Then GM Andrew Berry brought in DE Za’Darius Smith, S Juan Thornhill, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, S Rodney McLeod, DT Maurice Hurst, DE Ogbo Okoronkwo, and DT Shelby Harris. The defensive leftovers from the year before included S D’Anthony Bell, LB Tony Fields, CB M.J. Emerson, LB Jacob Phillips, CB Greg Newsome, DE Alex Wright, LB Sione Takitaki, and DT Jordan Elliott.

Tennessee Titans v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Finally, Berry drafted or signed free agent rookies DT Siaki Ika, DE Isaiah McGuire, S Ronnie Hickman, CB Cam Mitchell, and LB Mohamoud Diabate.

It was Schwartz’s job to mold these men into a respectable group.

And with the success of this year’s defense, Schwartz would appear to become front-and-center for an NFL head coaching job. After all, his unit surpassed expectations. Plus, he was once the head coach of the Detroit Lions so that experience alone was a plus.

And for next season, there is a laundry list of defensive free agents the Browns will have to sign or decide whether their employment continues along Lake Erie.

The success Schwartz has groomed this Cleveland defense should have positioned him into a hot candidate this off-season. Eight open head coaching vacancies are a large number and 25% of league members. And there could be as many as 11. That is one-third of the NFL.

With clubs that are still competing in the NFL playoffs, likely candidates have to wait to be interviewed. But as teams lose, like the Browns, all of their coaching personnel are instantly available for the interview process.

Yet so far, Schwartz has garnered zero interview requests.

The Browns’ defense did have issues late in the year. The 45-14 blowout to the Houston Texans was certainly not the exclamation point a coordinator such as Schwartz would be using on the top line of his resume.

The description “45 points” is fresh on every GM and owner’s mind at the moment. And the Browns defense had a horrible day at the office in their first playoff game since 2020. With being a playoff game, the Browns-Texans game was the only game on TV. Every GM, owner, coach, and player who was not participating in the game saw what happened. Repeatedly. Cleveland’s defense did not look stellar despite all the accolades they had gathered all season long.

And it did not matter to anyone that Schwartz had to deal with a list of injuries to players such as Delpit, McLeod, and Hurst who became lost for the year. Other players did not play in multiple games as well such as Thornhill, Ward, and Ogbo as Schwartz had to plug-and-play the next man up.

But Schwartz’s phone not ringing for an interview – any interview - is very odd. After all, he is a candidate for the league’s best assistant coach and has already been named the league’s best assistant by Pro Football Talk.

There seems to be more of an emphasis around NFL circles to hire an offensive mind especially the teams that have younger signalcallers. But there are defensive coaches sprinkled into the fabric of the league – and always will be.

Washington Commanders v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Schwartz has had great success at every defensive coordinator job he has had in Philadelphia, Buffalo, and now Cleveland. Maybe he falls into that stigma of coaches who are great coordinators but make lousy head coaches with guys such as Wade Phillips, Romeo Crennel, Josh McDaniels, Norv Turner, and Dan Quinn.

As far as the Browns are concerned, the likelihood that Schwartz will be back next season is reassuring.

Or is it?

During the regular season, Cleveland’s opponents scored 38, 36, and 31 (twice) against them. And now, 45 in the playoffs. Not to mention the Browns were favorites going into the playoff game against Houston and predicted by just about every major media outlet to win the game outright.


For some Browns fans, those stately statistics just aren’t as enticing as before the playoff loss against the Texans.

Do you think Schwartz gets a job or interviews this offseason?