Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz speaks with long snapper Jon Dorenbos during training camp on July 28, 2016.

BEREA — Marvin Lewis noticed several things about Jim Schwartz during his time with the Baltimore Ravens in the mid-to-late 1990s. One of the things that struck him the most was the way Schwartz, then just a control coach, defensive quality, could communicate.

It didn’t matter if Schwartz was talking to his fellow coaches or a future Hall of Fame linebacker. The young coach found a way to connect.

“He was gifted with that,” Lewis told the Beacon Journal this week. “And frankly, that’s why you have a job which is to get the most out of the player and that’s your role, and you’re convincing the player, that’s why we’re here is who we are.” And Jimmy had a knack for it.

“Plus, it comes from respecting you in the room and making sure every player in that room knew why we were there. And that’s to help them get better.”

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Schwartz was introduced as the Browns’ new defensive coordinator on Wednesday afternoon. Once the conversation turned from his memories of beginning his NFL career as a Bill Belichick mole in the early 1990s and overcoming some health issues that led him to step away from coaching on the field, he turned to your approach to training.

That led Schwartz to weigh in on the importance of communication. Specifically, what is important to open the lines of communication.

“I think it all starts with trust,” Schwartz said. “I’ve said this over the years: Players don’t really care if you’re young or old, black or white, loud or quiet. If you can help them, they’ll listen to you. If they know you’re honest.” and he’s telling them the truth, they might not like what he says, but they’ll take it because they know it’s coming from a performance basis and it’s coming from the truth. Establishing trust is job number 1. That’s probably the biggest thing.”

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) talks with head coach Jim Schwartz during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Detroit, Thursday, November 24, 2011. Suh was ejected from the game after stepping on an opposing offensive lineman. [AP Photo/Carlos Osorio]

Schwartz has earned a reputation for being fiery throughout his career. That was especially true of the previous three stops as defensive coordinator (Tennessee, Buffalo and Philadelphia) and a head-coaching tenure in Detroit.

However, listening to his former players talk about him, you would never have guessed such a character. Robaire Smith, who played for Schwartz in Tennessee on two separate occasions, went so far as to call him a “player coach” because of the way he listens to and interacts with his players.

“Schwartz is very nice,” Smith told the Beacon Journal. “It’s nothing you can’t not talk to him about. He’s not a guy that makes you not want to go up and ask him questions, or not come up and ask him about something or express yourself with something.” That is, sometimes many players see something different from what the coach can see when they are on that field. So you have a coach who is smart enough to know that you have to listen to your players… I mean, that’s a great, great feature, great thing that he does.”

Traits are often something that is learned, not necessarily instinctive. For Schwartz, his communication skills with his players was something he learned over time.

The individual to whom Schwartz attributes that trait is the late Gunther Cunningham, who was Schwartz’s linebackers coach with the Titans from 2001-03 and his defensive coordinator during his coaching career with the Lions from 2009-13.

Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, right, talks with head coach Jim Schwartz at an NFL football practice in Allen Park, Mich., Tuesday, May 29, 2012.

It was the way Schwartz watched Cunningham interact that left a lasting impression on him.

“He had been a head coach and a coordinator, and just watched the way he could tear a guy apart and then turn around and walk off the field and laugh and hug the kid because it was all a performance for ‘Gun,'” he said. Schwartz. “It had nothing to do with meeting his wife or his kids, and the guys knew that and were very confident in the fact that it was a business. He wasn’t going to beat around the bush because he was a favorite player, and he wasn’t going to be hard on a guy because maybe he didn’t like it that much. It was all about performance.”

It’s also a talent that trainers often can’t get. It’s a bit of a needle to thread for a coach to balance being sort of a hardline disciplinarian, but also being known, as Smith referred to Schwartz, as a player coach.

That’s why Lewis, who spent 16 years as the Cincinnati Bengals head coach from 2003 to 2018, found Schwartz’s ability to strike the balance so impressive.

“Well, it’s a skill you have to have because, just like you said, most of the time the guy who gets tagged as a player coach isn’t around very long for that opportunity because the same guys who praise him are the ones who want to sit down. with him when they get the first chance they get,” Lewis said. “So you have to have that ability to really get to the player. That’s the most important thing.”

“As we originally said, we have a job to help that player succeed or else we won’t be needed.”

Contact Chris at [email protected]

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