Q. We don’t usually get to talk to you after the season is over, so I’m going to go ahead and ask this. When you think about your defense in 2020, what will you think about? How do you sum this up? How do you quantify it? (Les Bowen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I appreciate the question, but those are after-the-season questions, and it doesn’t do a service to us to start talking about that now. We have a division opponent coming in that’s trying to earn a playoff spot on our field, and we’ve got to have all of the attention on this game. I’ve got too much respect for the guys that are going to be on the field, some of which are playing for the first time. I’ve got too much respect for the game to talk about anything other than this game, and I apologize for that, but that’s where our focus is.
Q. CB Michael Jacquet on Sunday, what did you expect? It seemed to take a while for you to make an adjustment there. I know your options were limited. Could you have put him in a better position from the start? How did you see that? (Les Bowen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Yeah, well, we put [CB Darius] Slay on [Cowboys WR Amari] Cooper, and M.J. [Michael Jacquet] was out on [Cowboys WR Michael] Gallup most of the time and he was having a tough day. And I started going to some zone, but the problem with that is the quarterback just kept checking down to Zeke [Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott] and he would get 10 yards a pop there.
At halftime we switched Slay over to Gallup to try to get a little bit more help to M.J., but he was still struggling. What I compare that to, it’s a little bit like a pitcher. Sometimes you don’t have your best stuff, and Skip [the manager] has got to go to the bullpen.
I felt like we had sort of gone through all the different things. We tried to go to some zone. We tried to switch it up. He was still having a tough day. And we didn’t want to, but we had to go to J-Mill [S Jalen Mills] at corner and I didn’t want to because he was giving us a lot of solidity in the middle part of the field. I thought Mills did an outstanding job of putting the fire out. I thought him and Slay at that point really started playing well on the outside part of the field.
Now, we had our other issues that put more pressure on the safeties, and [S Marcus] Epps got banged up a little bit early in the game. We started going with some different combinations back there. Communication wasn’t the best. But we made a little run in the second half, mainly because of Slay and Mills. Again, I think it’s just such a compliment to Jalen that he’s been such an unselfish player. He’s been making progress at safety, and for his career it’s probably best that he just stays there, but when we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to move you to corner,’ he never even batted an eye. He’s gone out, and he’s switched to the best receiver before, he’s gone out and just started playing right and left, challenges guys.
We weren’t able to get back in the game, but that gave us a chance to get back in the game. But M.J. will bounce back. We talked a little bit about his mental makeup and things. Sometimes they’re going to hit a homer off of you, and you’ve got to be able to come back and throw that fast ball again, and I have confidence that he will.
Q. If you can’t talk about the 2020 season now, is that a promise that you’ll talk about it next week after the season? (Jeff McLane)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Yeah, I’ve always said that. I think it’s never happened, I think, other than like — has there been a time in the off-season? But again, I just — I’ve said that every year, whether we were going to the playoffs or — obviously not this year. I think part of professionalism is you keep your focus just on that game, and like I said, there’s too much at stake. It might not be at stake for us as a team with a playoff berth and things like that, but we’ve got a lot of individual things that players still can accomplish. We’ve got guys that are trying to earn their way in the league, and like I said before, we have a division opponent that’s going to come and try to celebrate on our field.
We’ve got to have a no-hat rule this week. We can’t let opponents put division win hats on at the Linc [Lincoln Financial Field]. There’s a lot of pride in that, and all our focus has to be to accomplishing that this week.
Q. Over the course of the season there have been times you’ve talked specifically about personnel, former Eagles S and current Saints S Malcolm Jenkins obviously, one of the greatest players you’ve ever had play for you, and then we saw in this game depth was obviously an issue in the secondary. Have you been given the personnel that you needed, especially on the back end this season? (Jeff McLane)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Every year you deal with stuff like that. Every year there’s — I mean, I look back to the ’18 season — or go back to our Super Bowl year. [Former Eagles CB and current Washington Football Team CB Ronald] Darby got hurt in the opener and [former Eagles CB and current Panthers CB] Rasul [Douglas] had to come in and hold the line for us until Darby got back. We lost [former Eagles LB and current Cardinals LB] Jordan Hicks that year. There’s always challenges every single year. The next year we really got wiped out in the secondary. Malcolm was about the only guy that was left.
The way I consider all that stuff is that’s just part of this job. You’re going to be shorthanded sometimes. Sometimes you’re going to be a full complement. It’s part of the challenge of this job is trying to figure out a way to solve those problems, trying to figure out a way to minimize match-ups or maximize match-ups, go with your strengths, try to minimize your weaknesses. At times this year we haven’t done a good enough job with that. I haven’t done a good enough job with that.
That’s just part of the NFL, and there’s no excuses in this league.
Q. More of a general question, I guess. You’ve been a coordinator since — or a head coach since, I guess, 2001, been around since the mid-’90s in this league, so you’ve been through different CBAs, different rules, scale-backs and work. How much more difficult is it to get young guys up to speed in the current environment? Obviously, this is the strangest year ever. (John McMullen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I think that’s probably the only thing that has affected us this year. I think just with the normal off-season program, normal training camps and normal season schedule, I think it gives ample opportunity to get guys up.
Without being face to face with guys, we don’t have face-to-face meetings, and there’s a lot of stuff that’s not just the meeting, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of stuff, just getting to know guys, learning their personality. I think there’s a lot of coaching involved in that, and just peer pressure with players, being around — being in front of the other guys, being in the meeting room. All those dynamics are different for young players. They don’t have older guys that they can watch. They don’t have older guys that they can learn from because they’re doing it like we’re doing this meeting right here.
I wouldn’t say that there’s any great challenge other than this year, but everybody was in the same boat this year. Again, this is a no-excuse league. You have to deal with situations that come up, and we haven’t always done our best — well, we’ve always done our best, but we haven’t had the results that we’ve wanted.
Q. You mentioned obviously that you guys dealt with a ton of injuries in previous seasons, but I guess the difference is that you were able to overcome those injuries in past seasons and make it to the playoffs. Why do you think that wasn’t the case this year? (Dave Zangaro)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, I mean, there’s a lot of different things with that. Sometimes injuries are hit one position and you can go with strengths at another position. Sometimes it’s more than that. Sometimes it affects both sides of the ball. Sometimes maybe only one side of the ball. And again, I keep with my same themes of this is a no-excuse league. It really doesn’t matter. Nobody really cares what your injury situation is. Everybody has them. It’s football. Guys are going to get hurt.
You just have to figure out a way to put it together and come out with wins, and like I said, we haven’t done a good enough job of that this year, and as a result, we lost an opportunity for the playoffs.
Q. When a defense gives up, I guess, over 500 total yards of offense the last two weeks, is that just a product of being undermanned or is there something more there than meets the eye maybe? (Ed Kracz)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, in this game I think the biggest part of it was just the big plays, whether it was man-to-man or where the help was coming in man or missed leverage on a block, they throw a wide receiver screen, we went around the block the wrong way and all of a sudden instead of forcing the runner to cut back to help, all of a sudden he was running away from our defense. That was certainly the issue in this game was the big plays. When you have all those 50- and 60-yard plays and even more than that in this game, that certainly goes a long way to having a lot of yards on the board.
We’ve never really concerned ourselves too much with yards. It’s always been about points and things that affect points, 3rd down and red zone and things like that. But I think if you do look at the yards in this game, it was a reflection of the big plays that we gave up. We were trying to put a fire out at one spot, we ended up causing a fire at another position. Sometimes we had too many fires, not enough hoses. But again, no excuses there. We have to figure out a way to figure it out.
Like I said, I thought we had sort of got it under control a little bit and had an opportunity to get back, but it just wasn’t enough.
Q. You’ve started to get some turnovers the last few games, but you’re still 25th in the league in takeaways this year. This has been a three-year thing now since the Super Bowl season. You’ve been below 21st, 25th. Is it an addressable issue? I mean, you’ve got one of the best pass rushes in the league, which should translate to more turnovers, but it hasn’t. How do you change that going forward? (Paul Domowitch)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, I’ve said a long time that if you chase turnovers, you’re going to put yourself in bad positions. A lot of them come from game situations. You mentioned pass rush. A lot of them come when you’re protecting a lead and your D-line can just do nothing but rush the passer and your coverage can stay back and know that the quarterback can’t just afford to take check-downs, he’s going to have to force the ball into coverage. A lot of those do come from those kind of situations. We really haven’t had those kind of opportunities a bunch.
I think that turnovers are important to us, and I think that you can talk about things that you want the defense to do, keep points off the board and turn the ball over for your offense. It’s an important part of what we do. But again, no excuses. We haven’t done a good enough job there.
Q. How much did not having three key guys on your defensive line in DT Fletcher Cox, DE Josh Sweat and DE Derek Barnett affect the trouble that you had in the secondary? (Martin Frank)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I mean, obviously those guys can make a big difference, get the ball out a little bit quicker, force the quarterback off a different spot. I really don’t put it on those guys up front. I think they could have helped a little bit, but they weren’t the reason that we were giving up big plays. I thought the guys that stepped in did a good job of handling it. Some guys haven’t played a whole lot this year, guys like [DE] Joe Ostman, [DT] Raequan Williams was in there and [DT] T.Y. [McGill] got a chance to play again. Overall, you can’t judge guys on anything other than a win or a loss, and we lost the game, lost our opportunity for the postseason.
I think it just is what it is.
Q. In getting back to the secondary, has CB Darius Slay had the desired effect on the defense this year, number one; and number two, you’ve made a deliberate decision to go deeper at safety this year than at corner when the 53 was made. Would you have been better served going deeper at corner given the injury history there? (Zach Berman)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I don’t really talk about roster decisions. That’s really not my land to farm right there. So I’ll just leave that for [head coach] Doug [Pederson] and [executive vice president/general manager] Howie [Roseman]. They can address those kind of things.
But as far as Slay, it certainly didn’t show up in the stat sheet as far as like interceptions and things like that. But there were a lot of games that quarterbacks didn’t throw very much at him, including this last game. First play there’s help that should be coming his way on that first play, and it wasn’t there, and it made it look bad for him giving up a long completion, but after that, man, I have a hard time remembering another completion that he gave up after that in this game. He shadowed the best receivers. He’s made some guys disappear. He’s had a couple games that he wasn’t — he probably wasn’t at the top of his game, but I think that more falls to the NFL and the load that we put on him and knowing that you’re not going to pitch a shutout against great receivers every single week.
When we’ve been at our best, we’ve been a man team. Sometimes we’ve had injuries and we’ve had to go away from that and those things, but there were times early in the season that we were playing a ton of man and we were having good success with it, and I think a lot of that did have to do with Darius and his ability to match up on wide receivers.
Another guy, I mentioned Jalen Mills, but Slay is a totally unselfish player, isn’t afraid of the spotlight. I mentioned Seattle a couple weeks ago or however long that’s been, where he took the heat to allow everybody else to do the things that they needed to do, and that’s really an unselfish thing.
Even in this game he was on [Cowboys WR Amari] Cooper, but he saw that we needed to put a fire out and he put himself in a little bit more harm’s way because he knew that the coverage was going to be going somewhere else. But he was up for that challenge.
It’s probably an incomplete when it comes to how it’s gone, but I do think that it’s — he’s done yeoman’s work when it comes to the things that we’ve asked him to do, and like I said, it doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet.
I was talking to him a couple weeks ago, I think it was 2002, maybe 2003, about the best season I’ve ever seen from a corner was [former NFL DB] Samari Rolle with the Tennessee Titans, was — I mean, pitch a shutout every single week and had zero interceptions until the last week of the year, and I think he had one or two. It was against Houston. Didn’t get any votes for the Pro Bowl or anything else because he had zero interceptions. But it was as fine a season as I’ve ever seen from a corner, got everybody covered, quarterbacks wouldn’t throw at him.
So I’m not comparing him to that season, but I would be cautious of judging guys just based on some metrics like interceptions. It’s a little bit like D-line; if you judge guys just on stats, it doesn’t always tell the story. We put a lot of pressure on Slay. He’s been up for it every week, and I think that’s a great comfort to me and for the rest of the team.