Last Thursday was a dreadful day as Mike Pettine left the Buffalo Bills to be the new Head Coach for the Cleveland Browns. There was much dread going on in Bills nation as the biggest question was who would replace him. Some thought that it would be an in-house promotion while other thought Wade Phillips or Gregg Williams would be given a call. There was much talk about who would replace Pettine and would it make the Bills defense worse or better? However that talk ended quite quickly as Friday night Head Coach Doug Marrone made his decision and hired Jim Schwartz to be the new Bills defensive coordinator. It happened very quickly, far quickly than anyone expected. It also showed the Browns how a coaching search is supposed to be done.
Jim Schwartz was recently fired as the head coach of the Detroit Lions where he went a combined 29-51 and one playoff appearance, inheriting a team that went 0-16 the year before. He was also the Titans Defensive Coordinator from 2001-2008 under Jeff Fischer. During his 8 years as defensive coordinator the Titans were top 5 in Run defense five times and six times in the top 10. This is drastically different than the Bills who have been dreadful against the run in recent years, last year finishing 28th. At the very least the hire of Schwartz means that the run d will be addressed. Schwartz also has had a history of great front 4s, with the Titans he turned Albert Haynesworth into a terror for opposing offenses and Detroit he had a dominating duo of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. This is good news for the Bills as they have a great duo of Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus in their interior of the defensive line.
With Schwartz means another scheme change for the Bills, though not as dramatic as people would think. Under Mike Pettine the Bills ran a 3-4 base d, however it was a hybrid scheme and for the most part was a 4-3 with Mario Williams moving from OLB to DE. Under Schwartz the Bills will more than likely run a base 4-3 which means more than likely Kiko Alonso will move from MLB to the Will position (Weakside Linebacker). It also means that instead of drafting/signing players for the linebacker position, the defensive line will be of focus, particularly the defensive end position. This radically changes the offseason focus of the Bills as not only will the focus be of improving the anemic offense, but also getting players that fit Schwartz’ scheme.
Also that same night the Bills made another coaching move, hiring Todd Downing to be the new QB coach. Downing has served as the Detroit Lions QB coach where he has spent the last 3 years coaching Matt Stafford. In the past 3 years Stafford has averaged 4,885 yards passing, and 30 TD passes a year. Downing also coached EJ Manuel at the 2013 Senior Bowl so he is at least a familiar face for Manuel. At the very least it means Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett can stick to being an Offensive Coordinator and not have to do dual roles. It also means that EJ has a coach that can help him with is footwork, mechanics and being an NFL QB to take the next step the Bills so desperately want.
These two coaching moves happened quite quickly and came to a shock to most. The Bills could have just promoted Jim O’Neil or Donnie Henderson to defensive coordinator and hope for the best. Instead the Bills went for the home run, getting a coach with a good resume as a defensive coordinator to take over a very talented defense. What this shows is Doug Marrone is serious about winning in the near future and the rebuilding period is over. The Bills are in a win-now mode and hopefully the winning actually starts to happen this time.