PHILADELPHIA - Jim Schwartz is officially stepping away from the Eagles and the NFL, at least for the time being.
The veteran defensive coordinator, who spent the last five seasons piloting the Philadelphia defense, confirmed previous reports that he would step down when his contract expired at the end of the 2020-21 season.
"I would like to express my gratitude to Jeffrey Lurie, Coach Pederson, and Howie Roseman, as well as the entire football staff and the many coaches and players I had the honor of working with," said Schwartz in a statement released by the team. "This has been an incredible five-year run and I relished every moment of it."
Schwartz singled out some of the veteran players who were here for either his entire tenure in Philadelphia or a significant portion of it, including the highs of a Super Bowl LII championship and the lows of a tough 4-11-1 campaign which finished up with a 20-14 setback to the Washington Football Team on Sunday.
"I feel especially indebted to guys like Fletcher (Cox), BG (Brandon Graham), Rodney (McLeod), and Jalen (Mills), who I had the privilege of coaching all five seasons, as well as Nate (Gerry), DB (Derek Barnett), Vinny (Curry), and many others who I celebrated a Super Bowl Championship with," Schwartz said.
The hiring of Schwartz, a Baltimore Area-native, was an arranged marriage with head coach Doug Pederson back in 2016. In the ensuing years he had as close to total autonomy over his side of the football as you could possibly have as a coordinator and by any definition was a success.
From 2016 to 2019, the Eagles were top 10 in the NFL in rushing defense (No. 1), red-zone defense (No. 2), third-down defense (No. 3), scoring defense (No. 7), and takeaways (No. 9) over that span, along with the world championship, even if the win over New England was a shootout.
Without Malcolm Jenkins on the back end in 2020 and at least one veteran, somewhat proven linebacker in the mix like a Jordan Hicks or Nigel Bradham, things slipped and the Eagles finished ranked 19th in total defense.
In more advanced metrics, Schwartz's units ranked in the top 15 in Football Outsiders' metrics in each of his five seasons, including top-five finishes in both 2016 and 2017.
“That’s the smartest football mind I’ve ever been around," said linebacker Alex Singleton, who led the Eagles in tackles this season. "Just the stuff that he knows. I take notes. Just all the stuff he says all the time. Just the little nuances of the game I’ve just learned by him talking, day in and day out in a casual meeting."
Fellow LB T.J. Edwards offered a similar sentiment.
"I think historically, a lot of people have so much respect for Coach Schwartz including everyone in this organization," Edwards said. "Especially since this year, he found a way every single week to give us a motive to be angry and motivated every week. Just the way he talks about the game, different scenarios, you learn so much from a simple conversation.
"He means a lot to us and I appreciate everything.... we hold him in a high regard.”
Pederson, meanwhile, was recently asked about how his relationship with the DC grew over the years.
“I’ll tell you, our relationship has evolved tremendously,” said Pederson. “I think we've been more on the same page over the years, me just getting to know him each year and understanding him as a coach and a coordinator.
“Obviously, his defenses historically have been top defenses in the National Football League. Of course, when guys are healthy and all of that.”
Schwartz left open the door for a return to the NFL down the line but has dealt with some health issues recently, including eye and hip surgeries.
"I have given my heart and soul to the game of football, not just over the last five years here, but throughout my 32 years as a coach," Schwartz said. "Although my passion for the game remains strong, it is best for me to step back from the day-to-day of coaching for the time being. I have too much respect for the game and for everybody involved to compromise the level of commitment that I believe is necessary to do the job. I don't know what my future holds, but I am willing to do anything I can to help this organization in any way."
If the Eagles want to continue in the Schwartz mold, the most likely promotion would be defensive line coach Matt Burke, a longtime Schwartz acolyte who was once the defensive chief in Miami.
Schwartz's 2020 secondary coach, Marquand Manuel, is also a former DC in Atlanta and LB coach Ken Flajole ran the Rams defense from 2009-2011.
The Eagles could also look outside the organization for bigger names like Dan Quinn, Gus Bradley or John Fox, a former head coach who is close to Pederson and has visited Eagles practices in the past.
Whomever the next DC is, however, he will be asked to fill some big shoes.
"Thank you again to the City of Philadelphia and to the Eagles for an incredible five years," Schwartz said, "My family and I will never forget our time here."
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes, and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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