I’m a 4-3 guy. Always have been. Always will be. Tom Landry invented it. Buddy Ryan perfected it. The 4-3 is the defense that any good person should want his team to run.
Unfortunately, times are changing. The 3-4, and variations of it, are on the rise. This epidemic is worse than when crack cocaine took over the inner cities of the world in the 1980s or even Bieber Fever. Yes, it’s that serious.
Much as I’d love to sit here and rip Chip Kelly and Bill Davis for their love of the 3-4 (they probably also worship the devil and drink New Coke), I can’t do it. All the cool coaches now love the 3-4. It is like a Members Only jacket to an 8th grader, circa 1983. Gotta have it. If you don’t have it, something is wrong with you. And there’s definitely no way that Gina will ever throw herself at you.
One college coach recently went so far as to say the 4-3 is a dying defense. The thinking is that QBs are so smart these days that having 4 DL in set spots is just not the way to go. Your only hope for beating Peyton Manning or Tom Brady is to confuse them, even if only for half a second. That delay might just be enough to let a DB get into position to make a play on a ball.
You can go 4-3 if you have a dominant DL. We saw what the 2007 Giants did to the Patriots and that great offense. The 2011 Giants had a bit more luck, with Gronk being hurt and Wes Welker dropping an easy pass that would have delivered a big gain. A good DL isn’t enough. You need a group that can take over games.
Or…be hybrid. Use multiple fronts and confuse the heck out of the QB. Get creative and attack.
That’s what Kelly wants. That’s what Davis wants. That’s what they’ll run. So embrace it. Love it.
There are quite a few people who want to know why Kelly and Davis can’t see the Eagles have good 4-3 personnel and don’t stick with that. Simply put, they want their 3-4.
Bill Parcells took over the Dallas Cowboys in 2003. He is a 3-4 coach. Loves it, lives it. Dallas had small guys that didn’t fit the 3-4 and the defense was already good under Mike Zimmer. Tuna decided to set aside his feelings and go with the 4-3. Dallas responded by having the #1 defense in football in 2003. They made the playoffs and Parcells was okay with life. The next year the defense and overall team struggled. Parcells junked the 4-3 and went to his beloved 3-4. He had a phenomenal defensive draft in 2005, landing DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Kevin Burnett, Chris Canty and Jay Ratliff. That allowed Dallas to make the transition quicker than most.
Parcells was willing to try something new (the 4-3), but it wasn’t something he was comfortable with. He wanted his 3-4. Kelly and Davis feel the same way. I’d rather them make the switch now than in 2 years. Go ahead and get the process started. It will be painful at times (like Friday night), but if they are 3-4 coaches, don’t waste time. Put the scheme in (some version of it) so that young players can start getting a feel for it. I’d rather have Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks learning the 3-4 in 2013, when I don’t have high hopes, than in a year or two when I want us to push for the playoffs.
It takes time to make the transition. You can’t count on landing players like Parcells did. They just aren’t available every year.
Kelly and Howie Roseman focused more on offense in the 2013 draft. I think part of that was by design. My guess, and it is only a guess, is that they wanted to see how the current players did in the 3-4. That would tell them which spots need to be addressed. Give the current players time before reaching conclusions. I’d say by November we’ll know who is making a slow transition and who simply isn’t meant to play in the 3-4.
Think about the Steelers. They rarely play rookies. Their system has been in place for years, but because so few players are truly ready for the NFL version of the 3-4, the Steelers give guys time to learn and to adapt. Even then, there will be adjustments. Lawrence Timmons was drafted to be a star OLB. He did nothing as a rookie. He started 2 games in his second season. The next year he moved to ILB and became a good player. He’s been a stud ILB ever since. Be patient with talented players.
I would bet than next
April May the Eagles go heavy on defense in the draft and we see a real commitment to the 3-4.
One criticism I do have of Davis and Kelly is this talk of running a 2-gap version of the 3-4. Fletcher Cox is your most talented player on defense. He is best when attacking. I think they should absolutely go with the Wade Phillips 1-gap version (which is essentially the 4-3 Under). Having Fletch 2-gap on most base plays would seem to be a less than ideal use of his ability. They talk about adjusting to personnel so as they see the guys perform this year, they will alter some of their scheme ideas accordingly. I hope so, anyway.
It’s here and it isn’t going away. Embrace the 3-4 or I will send Juan Castillo over to your house to explain some of his defensive strategies to you.