As you may or may not have heard by now, the Titans have fired Ken Whisenhunt. Controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk and Steve Underwood now have two months in advance to make the right call on the next head coach. Considering the fact that Marcus Mariota cannot go through many more coaching changes early in his career before we start seeing real damage, and that the Titans have reached new lows as a franchise, it would not be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the most important decisions in the history of the Tennessee Titans. There will be many profiles on possible head coaching candidates from now until that decision is made. The first is on a coach many are familiar with in Jim Schwartz. While things didn't end on great terms in Detroit, he has a strong case for the Titans job.
Track Record: Jim Schwartz has had success everywhere he has been in the league, no matter where he has been. He started off learning from arguably the best coach in the history of the league in Bill Belichick. Later on, he coached some downright dominant defenses in Tennessee, including the unit for the Titans in 2008, the last time the team made the playoffs. In Detroit, he turned an 0-16 team to a playoff team in just a couple of years. He completely turned the franchise around. The reason the Lions have been viewed as a talented team and possible contender in recent years is because of the work that he did and what he built. If you are a believer in new coaches inheriting their predecessor's team in year 1, then look no further than the situation in Detroit now. Jim Caldwell took "Schwartz's team" back to the playoffs last season, and now a year further into the Caldwell regime, the Lions have gone back to being a bottom dweller. They are arguably the worst team in the NFL again. After Schwartz left Detroit, he went to Buffalo and turned their defense into a top 5 unit. Though he took over Mike Pettine's 3-4 personnel from the year before, he made the transition seem effortless. He touched on the situation in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated:
1 Year Hiatus: Schwartz took a year off after Rex Ryan became the head coach in Buffalo, despite several opportunities to keep coaching, including staying on with the Bills. In that time, he has worked with the league as a consultant to the officiating department. Looking around the league, taking a year break seems to be largely beneficial. Tom Coughlin and Jeff Fisher are some recent examples. Coaches get a chance to recharge, take a step back, and evaluate themselves, allowing them to make any adjustments to their approach that they see fit. In the same article, Schwartz mentioned the benefits:
Players Love Him: This should be obvious, but after Whisenhunt's time here, it's more important than ever for the Titans to find a coach that the players want to play for and rally around. No matter where you look, you will find players that absolutely loved playing for Jim Schwartz. Lions players were upset when he was let loose. Bills players were clamoring for Rex Ryan's scheme to be more like Schwartz's just a few weeks ago. The players love working for him, and that's a huge factor.
Reunited And It Feels So Good: After the Whisenhunt debacle, it seems as if some of the hardline stance by fans that want "No previous ties" has somewhat softened. With Amy Adams Strunk and Steve Underwood calling the shot here, it's possible that they could welcome the familiarity that comes with Schwartz. Beyond that, indications are that Schwartz loves the city of Nashville and the Titans. He still lives in Nashville with his family, and would probably badly want the job. We are seeing what a true love and passion for a city and franchise is doing for Jack Del Rio in Oakland, and it can't be discounted. I firmly believe that Schwartz would make it his sole mission to return the franchise to the state that he once helped build it up to.
I have tossed Jim Schwartz's name out a few times before, and have heard some of the knocks against him. He is a 4-3 coach, he has connections to previous regimes, Marcus Mariota is the primary concern, and more. While these are legitimate concerns, I do not think the Titans should limit themselves in their search and start pigeonholing the pool of candidates--it's how you end up with a bad hire. As cliche as it may sound, the most important thing to do is find the best overall candidate. Everything else will sort itself out as things develop. When teams start searching for "guru's," or candidates to fill prerequisites going into the searching process, they end up with Whisenhunt's and Philbin's. Is Jim Schwartz the answer? Maybe, maybe not, but he is a coach that has been very successful everywhere that he's been in the league, and deserves a long look.