Schwartz meets with Falcons, prepares to meet with Fins

Updated: January 11, 2008, 11:14 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- Suddenly among the NFL's hottest candidates to fill one of the current head coach openings in the league, Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz interviewed here Friday with Falcons officials about the team's vacancy.

It marked the second interview in two days for Schwartz, who on Thursday huddled with Washington Redskins' owner Daniel Snyder for much of the day. He is the first known candidate to meet with the Redskins about a vacancy created when coach Joe Gibbs resigned on Tuesday morning.

Schwartz, 41, will interview with the Miami Dolphins on Monday, ESPN.com has confirmed. After interviews that sources from the Falcons and Redskins acknowledged were impressive, Schwartz will spend the weekend reviewing his notes for the Miami session.

The only franchise with a head coach vacancy that has yet to indicate interest in Schwartz is the Baltimore Ravens.

A 13-year league veteran, Schwartz was the sixth known candidate to meet with Atlanta owner Arthur Blank and other team officials in a session that lasted several hours.

The Falcons last week interviewed Dallas assistant head coach Tony Sparano, Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, Indianapolis assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, and former Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. On Thursday, team management traveled to Jacksonville and interviewed Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith.

Blank has also spoken with Southern California coach Pete Carroll about the Falcons' opening. While Carroll has yet to close the door completely, it is expected that he will decline the opportunity to discuss the job.

The Falcons have also sought permission to interview Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who is in his first season in that capacity. Despite reports that New York officials denied permission for a meeting with Spagnuolo, that is not entirely the case. The Giants, who are in the playoffs and preparing for a division-round matchup against Dallas on Sunday, only asked that the Falcons delay an interview until their season is over.

Schwartz holds a degree in economics from Georgetown University, and frequently relies on computer analysis to work up defensive game plans. An avid chess player, and blessed with an analytical mind, he has taken the baseball book "Moneyball," and attempted to apply its principles to football. Schwartz is a high-energy coach, a leader for whom veterans enjoy playing, and early in his career he worked for current New England coach Bill Belichick.

He presided over the resurgence of the Tennessee defense in 2007, as the unit rose to a No. 5 overall statistical ranking, after finished dead last in most yards surrendered in 2006.

Schwartz interviewed for the San Francisco head coach job in 2005 and finished as the runner-up for that position.

The vacancy in Atlanta was created when Bobby Petrino resigned with three games remaining in his debut NFL season. It is not known if the Falcons have arranged interviews with any other candidates.

The Falcons are also seeking to fill the general manager position. Blank and team president Rich McKay have interviewed six candidates for that job. Blank announced three weeks ago that McKay would no longer function as the general manager. In league circles it is believed that Atlanta could hire a general manager within the next week, and that Philadelphia Eagles general manager Tom Heckert is the front-runner.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.