Alex Trebek’s years-long battle with cancer came to an end this past November 8. The days since have seen an astonishing breadth of mourning. Some of it has come from often unexpected places, including the NFL. Some of the connections are direct, like the time Aaron Rodgers won Celebrity Jeopardy! while a beaming Alex Trebek made his personal fandom apparent.
In other cases, the influence runs deeper, from the show’s themes to Trebek’s sure-handed steering of every second of it that aired. Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz paid his respects by crediting Trebek with setting up his mind for NFL success.
How watching Alex Trebek helped Jim Schwartz develop crucial skills for his NFL future
The Philadelphia Eagles’ Schwartz took time during a recent post-game presser to make sure the world knew about one of his major life influences. Alex Trebek, someone not particularly associated with football, was the one who set the stage for Schwartz’s future career, the defensive coordinator said. It might not make intuitive sense, but when Schwartz lays it out, it becomes obvious how Jeopardy! could help develop an NFL coach.
“Alex Trebek and Jeopardy! trained me to be a football coach,” Schwartz told Peter King of NBC Sports. “In football, as a play-caller, you’ve got to be very quick, you’ve got to enunciate the play well when you call it, you can’t make errors. Those are all things Alex was so good at.”
It all clicks into place. Strategic thinking isn’t the end-all, be-all of coaching. You also must possess clarity and forthrightness to ensure your final decision is communicated directly and properly. Trebek was one of the top professional hosts during his run on Jeopardy!, a major factor in why the show was so accessible and enjoyable even when the subject matter was often obtuse.
Schwartz turned his Jeopardy! skillset into a career in the NFL
Schwartz says he and his friends turned their Jeopardy! fandom into a competition. Often, several of them knew the answer to a difficult question at once. So the true test became who could say it first and clearest. That, not just knowledge, is what often won their amateur competitions.
That skill is what made the now-Philadelphia Eagles coach transition from an undrafted Georgetown linebacker with an economics degree to a researcher for the Cleveland Browns. After he cut his teeth building intel for that Bill Belichick-led squad, he got his first DC job with the Tennessee Titans, the Washington Post reported.
His five-season run as head coach with the Detroit Lions was not enough to keep that title. Despite taking the Lions to their first postseason appearance in over a decade, he saw the last year of his run turn into a head-spinning disaster. After leading the team to a dominant 6-3 start, they dropped six of the next seven games.
Schwartz led the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense to an improbable Super Bowl win
Schwartz moved on to a DC job with the Buffalo Bills, returning to his previous success in that position. Syracuse.com reported that his demise with that team was more about head coach Rex Ryan’s decision to clean house rather than a judgment of Schwartz’s talents. The next phase of his career — with the Philadelphia Eagles — solidified his reputation as a top-flight DC.
In 2018, Schwartz was in the hot seat for Super Bowl LII, ESPN reported. The game matched him up against his original NFL mentor, Bill Belichick. Belichick’s DC, Matt Patricia, was widely seen as the next in line for Schwartz’s old head coach job with the Lions. It would be a test of wills between closely associated colleagues. And Schwartz and his defense came up big, opening the path for backup quarterback Nick Foles to lead the Philadelphia Eagles offense to an improbable 41-33 victory.