Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz did his best to downplay a Philadelphia Inquirer report about his supposed interest in head coach Doug Pederson's job.
The report, which is grounded in both Schwartz's relationship with vocal Pederson critic and current Ringer contributor Michael Lombardi as well as quotes from anonymous players and assistant coaches, depicted Pederson as a coach unaware that there could be a coup brewing just outside his door.
At the very least, the optics aren't favorable. One Eagles staffer said the only coach who probably doesn't think Schwartz is trying to undercut Pederson is Pederson. Three players, who requested anonymity, said that it has become well-known in the locker room that Schwartz is waiting to usurp power.
"He walks around the building like he thinks he's the head coach," one player said.
"Coach Pederson has a rule where you can't wear tank tops or no sleeves in the cafeteria," he said. "Well he wasn't in the cafeteria but I was. I saw an offensive player with no sleeves on so I tapped him and said you gotta get out, you gotta get sleeves on. Now I know when I was a head coach, I wanted people around the building who were enforcing my rules and I did that for him. I respect the position. I'm going to execute the job the way he outlined it for me. Anything else we can't really worry about."
This sounded like Schwartz's way of saying: *here's an example of why offensive players might think I'm overstepping, but really this is just what Pederson wants me to do. *
"I'll say this and I'll say this unequivocally," Schwartz said, "I am very comfortable with my relationship with Doug Pederson and I know he's comfortable in his relationship with me. What I do here is, I work extremely hard to execute the defense the way he has outlined it for me, OK? And I'm very comfortable with that. Not everyone is privy to those instructions. So if anybody misunderstands or misinterprets any actions, just know this: Coach Pederson is aware of everything I do in this building [and] outside the building."
Building a staff is next to impossible when you're a new head coach. Unless you're in a completely deferential environment -- which would exist where in the NFL outside of New England? -- there are probably three coaches (your coordinators) who at least think they might do the job better than you and dozens of other coaches working long hours for little credit simmering behind closed doors. The good coaches are the ones who can bring it all together.
Thinking of this report makes it stunning to me that some head coaches have a large number of former head coaches on staff. The Minnesota Vikings, for example, have two (Tony Sparano and Pat Shurmur). The dynamic between someone like 31-year-old Rams head coach Sean McVay and 70-year-old defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is something McVay probably has to work on daily. The same goes for Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter whose defensive coordinator, Mike Smith, was his former boss in Atlanta.
It's hard for people to understand sometimes that the same issues which exist in your office can also spread throughout an NFL facility. Here's to hoping that Schwartz and Pederson are fine, because a pair of aggressive playcallers like them could do some serious damage together in the wide-open NFC East.