When it comes to running a defense it's clear that Bills head coach Doug Marrone puts a higher priority on who is calling his defense, than what he's calling. It's his belief, and likely the belief of a lot of other sideline bosses in the NFL, that if you've got the right coach they'll capably put the players in the best position to succeed. That was Marrone's approach in hiring Jim Schwartz, who admitted in his introductory press conference Monday that's he's not Mike Pettine.
"Mike and I are different guys and even though I think continuity is important and there's something to be said for that, we're going to look very hard over the next few months for ways to keep as much continuity as we can," Schwartz said. "From a coaching standpoint a lot of times it's coaches adapting to players.
"We have some outstanding players up front and it's our job as coaches to put them in good position to make plays. Whether that's carry over from last year's scheme, whether that's new things that we bring, I think that's what coaching is all about. It's putting players in position to make plays and that'll be a pretty easy group to do it."
Schwartz has been labeled, right or wrong, as a defensive coach that gravitates to a four-man front based on his history running Tennessee's defense (2001-08) and his defense in Detroit where he served as head coach for five seasons (2009-13). As Schwartz sees it his approach in both of those coaching stops was based largely on the talent he had to work with.
"When people say we relied on the front four that's because they were really good," Schwartz told Buffalobills.com. "For a significant portion of my career we didn't have to blitz to get pressure on the quarterback. With guys like Jevon Kearse and Kevin Carter, Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Vanden Bosch in Tennessee, and even going to Detroit with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch was also up there. We were in a situation where we were doing what our players did best.
"We weren't trying to force the issue of putting a square peg in a round hole. I think that's part of coaching is you want to put players in good position and let them do what they do best. We've been in other situations where we didn't have the talent up front and we had to blitz more and be a little more creative in our packages. We'll be multi-dimensional enough to handle any of those situations (in Buffalo)."
Odds are he won't have to be all that creative here either. With three Pro Bowl defensive linemen in Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams, the talent up front is pretty stacked. Bills fans might understandably shudder at the notion of relying on the front four to get to the quarterback after they had limited success with their pass rush in 2012 under former defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. The veteran coordinator had a very predictable pass rush scheme.
Schwartz insists that predictable is one description that won't be associated with his scheme.
"We'll be fast, we'll be physical. We want to attack. We're not going to be a reading defense. There are going to be a lot of defensive linemen who are going to be pretty happy to play in a system like that," he said. "I think that over the next few months we will be looking at what is best rather than that is the way it has been done. There is going to be some carryover and there is going to be some things that we'll wind up changing because we think it is in our best long-term benefit to be able to do that."
Marrone confirmed that there were already plans in the works to tweak some things on defense to better address some of their deficiencies on that side of the ball from the 2013 season.
"I think what you see in every organization is you are going to see change from year to year," he said. "That was one of the things that I was getting ready to talk about as some of the things we were going to change in our defense to make us better."
Now that change figures to come in more than one form with a new man calling the plays on that side of the ball. But Schwartz maintains that the players on this roster will be able to handle the alterations he has in mind, in part because they've been through change each of the last three seasons.
"Players are resilient and players are smart and one of the benefits of having a lot of the players being in four different systems is it's increased their knowledge," Schwartz said. "Rather than repeating the same class for four years or five years, they've been exposed to a lot of different concepts, a lot of different terminology. They'll pick things up quickly.
"We'll work hard to try to keep some similarity with some terminology that makes sense. I think that's important, but that's not going to be our driving force. Our driving force is what we think serves us best over the long haul."
Schwartz assures that his scheme has the fullest measure of flexibility necessary. It can adapt to whatever might be necessary for the next opponent on the schedule.
"It's a scheme built on the guys up front getting after the quarterback," he said. "As much as you want to be multi-dimensional with personnel groups, this league comes down to one-on-one and I think we have some guys win those.
"At the same time I think in the NFL you need to be able to adapt. You have to adapt to injuries and different situations come up with your opponent every week. Your opponent is going to have strengths that you have to combat and weaknesses that you want to exploit. So you want to be built that way and I think we have the players to do that."
"Jim said it himself, it's our responsibility as coaches to put the players in the best situation possible," said Marrone. "Our goal is to make sure that they can just go out there and play. If we can make something easier for them and make them more productive then that's what we're going to do."