That’s a word Jim Schwartz, the Bills’ new defensive coordinator, used more than once Monday in describing his plans for the team’s defense when he met with Western New York media for the first time at One Bills Drive.
“We’re an attack scheme,” Schwartz said in describing the defensive system he will employ. “It’s a scheme built on the guys up front getting after the quarterback. As much as you want to be multi-dimensional with personnel groups, the league comes down to one-on-one, and I think we have some guys that can do that.”
Schwartz, 47, is back to serving as a defensive coordinator again after five seasons as head coach of the Detroit Lions before he was fired at the end of the 2013 season. He insisted he would have no difficulty rekindling his enthusiasm for the job.
Even though he was hired within hours after the Bills’ position became open with the departure of Mike Pettine, who became the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Schwartz said much thought went into his decision to come to Buffalo.
“When you’re a head coach and you find yourself on the outside, you want to be very careful about your next opportunity. There was never a question of getting back on the horse, so to speak. It was just making sure the opportunity was the right one,” Schwartz said and went on to call it a “tremendous opportunity.”
Among the reasons, he pointed out, is that there are several talented players in place on the defensive side. Schwartz said he is familiar with several of the Buffalo defensive standouts, having scouted such players as Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin and Aaron Williams in preparation for college drafts.
Schwartz insisted that his enthusiasm for coaching remains as high as ever even after his firing in Detroit.
“I think I was the first guy in the history of Georgetown to go into coaching,” Schwartz said. “I did it because football is what I love the most. … I work an awful lot, but I wouldn’t say I have a great work ethic. I just like what I do.”
Bills head coach Doug Marrone and Schwartz never had coached together, but have several mutual friends in the profession, including the former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, the late Mike Heimerdinger, and former Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn.
“When you look at hiring defensive coordinators, you want to look at people who you don’t like going against their defense,” Marrone said. “Jim’s defense has always been very tough, very difficult to run on, very difficult to score on. They’ve been aggressive. They’ve been very tough to game plan against.”
Schwartz will be the Bills’ fifth defensive coordinator in the last five seasons, following Perry Fewell, George Edwards, Dave Wannstedt and Pettine. Building on what Pettine put in place last season when the Buffalo improved somewhat with a more aggressive style is a question in the minds of Bills followers.
Under Pettine, Buffalo produced a club-record 57 sacks and were 10th in total defense but ranked only 20th in scoring defense and were hurt by big plays on the ground.
The previous season, the Bills ranked 22nd in total defense yards and 26th in points allowed.
Throughout his career in the NFL Schwartz has been associated with 4-3 defenses. The Bills operated from a base 3-4 alignment under Pettine, but showed varied looks.
Schwartz refused to put a label on his scheme but said that any changes made will be with continuity in mind.
“We’re going to look very hard at ways over the next few months to keep continuity as much as we can,” he said. Schwartz added that the schemes will have enough dimensions that it can be varied from game to game, depending on the opponent.
As much as the Bills say they will strive for some carry-over from Pettine, Marrone indicated that changes were coming even if Pettine had stayed on.
“Some of the things we were going to change in our defense to make us better,” Marrone said.
The makeup of the Bills’ defensive staff will be decidedly different with only defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson and assistant defensive backs coach Samson Brown staying on. The key vacancies are defensive line and linebackers.
Linebackers coach Jim O’Neil left to become defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns. Brian Fleury, a quality control coach for the Bills, will go along with him as an inside linebackers coach. Also leaving is Jeff Hafly who will be a secondary coach in Cleveland.
Anthony Weaver is also leaving, according to Marrone who had a meeting Monday with the defensive line coach.
Linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach was let go this month.
Marrone said because of the defensive coordinator situation, there was a “pause in the process” of hiring a new receivers coach to succeed Ike Hilliard, who was let go.