New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has never had a problem with picking the brains of the people he trusts. He spoke with Chip Kelly, when the Eagles head coach was with Oregon. He speaks with Alabama head coach Nick Saban. He picks up schemes and game plans from unlikely locations, and will implement them into his weekly game plan.
Belichick also has no issues with dipping back into the same well, as shown by his rehirings of Josh McDaniels and Brian Daboll on offense, and Mike Lombardi into the front office.
It seems that Belichick has a former protege that would be an absolutely perfect person to contact for ideas about this upcoming season. New England will be featuring a defense that seems fantastically strong and deep on the defensive front seven, with plenty of question marks in the secondary.
Bill, you might want to call Jim Schwartz.
Schwartz got his start in the NFL under Belichick in Cleveland, and was viewed as "one of the smartest coaches [Belichick's] been around." Schwartz was the long time defensive coordinator for the Titans under Jeff Fisher, serving from 2001-2008, and even Albert Haynesworth, who couldn't work outside of Schwartz' system, calls Schwartz "a mastermind."
Belichick even tried to poach Schwartz away from Fisher once he became established with the Patriots.
Schwartz was promoted to the head coach of the Lions from 2009-2013 and brought the team to their first playoff appearance in 12 seasons, and their first 10+ win campaign in 15 years.
This past year, Schwartz helped transform the Buffalo Bills as their defensive coordinator, where they ranked #1 in points allowed per drive.
Along the way, Schwartz became known for his ability to manufacture pressure with his defensive front four, with little blitzing, and used talents like Haynesworth, Ndamukong Suh, and Marcell Dareus. His front fours were always formidable, and they were always covered up by a weaker secondary, but he found a way to succeed.
This isn't to say that Schwartz is a better defensive mind than Belichick- far from it- but what would it hurt to pick up the phone and ask the currently unemployed Schwartz for his thoughts on how he'd approach the season? Why not add him to the coaching staff in an assistant capacity, similar to Brian Daboll for the 2013 season?
Schwartz's defenses have had a similar composition to the Patriots current defense, although he's never had the same quality at linebacker. While he claims not to be married to any sort of defensive scheme, he's often linked to the "wide nine" alignment of his defensive ends, as they're often a couple steps outside of the offensive tackle's shoulder.
Notable teams, like the 2011 Giants and the Colts with the tandem of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, have used this alignment to great success. The name of the game is quick pressure, to cover any deficiency in the secondary, and by giving the edge defender some space away from the tackle, they have a straighter path to the quarterback. This has issues of its own (easy to counter with run plays), but on obvious passing downs, it can benefit a defense.
Schwartz likes to have his defensive line in attack mode, which would definitely use the skill sets of Chandler Jones and Dominique Easley to great effect. In his scheme, both defensive tackles are pass rushers, as opposed to Belichick's scheme that usually keeps one lineman to control the line of scrimmage.
Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, and rookie Malcom Brown can all fit into this scheme, too. The numbers show that a "Half Wide 9" might actually be the most effective, where only one defensive end is out wide and their partner is closer to the alignment, since it allows the defensive line to react and counter whatever balance the offense provides.
The Patriots depth and strength at linebacker should help this defensive alignment since they will be expected to clean up whatever destruction the defensive line creates- and all three of Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, and Jamie Collins are capable of taking on a lineman one-on-one to make the tackle.
Belichick will never keep the same defense on the field from week-to-week, but if he can pick up some ideas for a game or two, or even for a drive, it would be a valuable conversation with Schwartz. The 2014 Patriots defense was its best in five seasons. Without the same members in the secondary, the Patriots will have to find some way to adjust their approach to have similar success.
So why not call Schwartz?