ROB MAADDI, AP Pro Football Writer
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jim Schwartz was triumphantly carried off the field the first time he returned to Detroit after being fired.
He’ll walk or jog this time.
Schwartz meets his former team when the Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) visit the Lions (1-3) on Sunday. The defensive coordinator holds no grudges.
“I think you guys would probably be surprised how much I root for the Lions,” Schwartz said Thursday. “As long as it’s not in direct conflict with the Eagles, I want those guys to win every week. I’ve got too much blood and sweat in that building, and there’s a lot of guys there that mean an awful lot to me.”
Schwartz took over the Lions in 2009, a year after they finished 0-16. His first draft class included quarterback Matthew Stafford, tight end Brandon Pettigrew and linebacker DeAndre Levy.
“I want those guys to succeed,” Schwartz said. “I’m going to do my very best to try to beat them, but I think everybody would be surprised how much you have relationships that just don’t go away when you leave or a player leaves. Those guys have had my back when I coached there, and I’ve had their back, and I’m sure that’ll continue. Not this Sunday, though.”
Schwartz led the Lions to 10 wins and their first playoff berth in 12 years in 2011. But he was fired after going 7-9 in 2013. He was Buffalo’s defensive coordinator in 2014 when the Bills beat Detroit 17-14 at Ford Field. That was an emotional return for Schwartz, who got to ride off on the shoulders of two players.
It’s all business this time.
“I’ve been there, done that,” Schwartz said. “I think that (game) was probably a little bit different in that I probably had about 10 coaches that worked for me that were still on the staff. I mean, most of the team had played for me. Sure, that’s going to be emotional. You’re not a human being if it’s not.”
The surprising Eagles are aiming to stay undefeated and Schwartz’s defense is a big reason for the team’s success. Schwartz has engineered a dramatic turnaround. A unit that ranked in the bottom five each of the past three seasons is third in total yards allowed and has given up just three touchdowns and two field goals in three games.
Schwartz was given full control of the defense after coach Doug Pederson hired him in January. The Eagles brought in a few of his former players and made other moves to add talent.
“I don’t think this was the worst defense in the NFL last year, but situation that came up, their numbers weren’t very good,” Schwartz said. “I think having an infusion of some new guys helped move them past that a little bit.”
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