Jim Schwartz Adds Some Dignity to the NFL’s Worst Day
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Cutdown day looms on Sept. 1 when NFL teams must trim their rosters from the offseason limit of 90 all the way down to 53.
Even when you add the 10-man practice squads that will be cobbled together in the days after that means the streets will be flooded with nearly 900 unemployed players whose NFL dreams quickly morph into AAF, XFL or CFL realities.
"It's without a doubt the worst day of this job," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz admitted earlier this week.
Schwartz, a former head coach in Detroit, is mindful of how much every player that suits up means to an organization, especially one like Philadelphia, which is coming off a Super Bowl LII win back in February.
"I said this last year when we were getting ready for the Super Bowl. We showed a picture of the Super Bowl trophy and you see all the fingerprints on it and you say, ‘Regardless of what your role was on this team, your fingerprints are going to be on that trophy. Whether you were on the practice squad and you were helping the offense. Whether you were an inactive or whether you were active, everybody had a role.,’" Schwartz explained.
Then the veteran coach began to look back even further, "And I'll take that back and include training camp players," he said. "Even if you don't make this team, you'll have your fingerprint on the success of this team going forward."
That isn't hyperbole for Schwartz, a coach who has often pointed out the importance of good scout-team players like Steven Means, De'Vante Bausby and Tre Sullivan.
In a few days to most Eagles fans, names like Danny Ezechukwu, Kyle Wilson, and Chandon Sullivan will be quickly forgotten footnotes on the way to what ultimately happens to the Eagles in 2018.
For Schwartz, his players mean a lot more than that.
"People don't make teams for a lot of different reasons. Whether it's not a good scheme fit, maybe a numbers position or maybe an injury," he explained. "It's very rare that a guy just flat out isn't talented enough."
So much so that Schwartz abhors degradation of players who are good enough to wear an NFL uniform even if it's only for the spring and summer.
"I think the only thing I'd say to people on the outside looking in, I saw something where somebody called somebody a ‘scrub’ that was in a preseason game. I don't think that's necessarily the case," he said. "All these guys are here for a reason. All of them are here on their own merit. All of them have ability, that in the right circumstances and with enough perseverance and maybe being fortunate a little bit here and there, they can all get some traction."
Until the traction comes, a little dignity will have to do.
"I think there's a dignity that's involved in dealing with those guys," Schwartz insisted. "... To see guys that work as hard as everybody else, that literally don't get on that bus. You certainly feel for those guys, but at the same time you're also appreciative for what they've done and know that they've played some role in the team."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen