Jim Schwartz made headlines last week for his late-night visit to Tennessee to meet with Kyle Vanden Bosch as soon as the defensive end became a free agent. The idea for the visit came from Rex Ryan, who did the same thing last year to entice Bart Scott to follow him to the Jets. Considering Vanden Bosch ended up signing with the Lions, the visit can be described as a resounding success, and as a matter of fact, it wasn't the only successful visit a Detroit coach made at the start of free agency.
"I got a call a little after nine, just relaxing at the house," said Burleson. "(I) got a call and Scott was in Seattle. I was like, ‘What’s going on? Is this really happening right now? Is this how people do things?’"
"(Linehan) said ‘Do you want to go to dinner, sit down and talk?’" said Burleson. "I called my dad and said, ‘I need you here.’ He’s probably my biggest fan, so we went to dinner, sat down and – to be honest – he didn’t need to sell me.
"It wasn’t that I walked away with a full stomach and I was convinced that I need to play for the Lions, it was more the effort of him coming to Seattle, showing that he really wanted to make a personal connection. Even though I know Scott, him coming out and actually looking me in my eyes and being in Seattle spoke volumes and for that reason I was very appreciative."
Nate Burleson's reaction to the visit by Linehan is very similar to Vanden Bosch's reaction to Schwartz coming all the way down to Tennessee.
"I was shocked," Vanden Bosch said. "I was kind of gearing up all day, waiting for 11 o'clock (Central time) and wondering what was going to happen.
"Coach Schwartz called me at 11:01 p.m. and said 'I'm a block from your house, can you give me a minute?' He said, 'I could be anywhere (in the country) right now, but I'm coming to talk to you because you're the guy I want.' That meant a lot to me and set the tone for getting the deal done this morning."
Schwartz met with Vanden Bosch and his wife for three and a half hours, and the rest is history. KVB ended up signing with the Lions, and this visit was a big reason why. The details of the visit, though, are probably the best part of this whole story.
He was Vanden Bosch's defensive coordinator in Tennessee from 2005-08 and thought so highly of his talents -- and ability to instantly help the beleaguered Lions defensive front -- he waited outside Vanden Bosch's gated community in Nashville with a bottle of Opus One wine, three stuffed Lions animals -- for Vanden Bosch's three small children -- and a serious sales pitch as free agency opened at midnight Friday.
Schwartz has said that visits like this probably won't be a common thing in the future since the Lions' top targets this year had personal connections to he and Scott Linehan. If it was just some random free agent that nobody on the staff knew very well, then it would be kind of awkward to just show up unannounced at the start of free agency. With Burleson and Vanden Bosch, however, Linehan and Schwartz do have a personal connection and were able to entice both to sign with the Lions by showing the effort to go across the country and south to Tennessee. Plus, it didn't hurt that Schwartz brought wine and stuffed animals with him and Linehan treated Burleson to dinner. I guess that is just the art of the deal.