Lovie Smith, 4-3 Defense Not Right for Packers
There has been a lot of talk among Green Bay Packers fans regarding Dom Capers and his future as the teamâ€™s defensive coordinator. Saturdayâ€™s postseason loss to the San Francisco 49ers was the anvil that broke the camelâ€™s back after a 2011 season of defensive agony, despite their overall improvement in 2012.
Tangential to this discussion is the consideration of who would take Dom Capersâ€™ place. Some people brought up Rob Ryanâ€™s name, though apparently the St. Louis Rams have already snatched him up. There are other gurus of the 3-4 defense, though, that could still be candidates, as well as the option of â€œpromoting from within,â€ which the Packers are fond of doing.
Meanwhile, some fans are calling for a complete overhaul of the defense. Theyâ€™d rather see a return to the 4-3 scheme that Green Bay ran before hiring Capers. Names like Lovie Smith have been tossed around as options, and some have even offered up way to reposition the current players to fit the scheme.
And I just canâ€™t help but be dumbfounded by these opinions.
I understand the desire for a change. (Really, I do.) But there are a number of reasons why switching back to the 4-3 or hiring a coach like Lovie Smith just wonâ€™t work for this Packers team. Here are a few major ones:
1) No More Clay Matthews
Despite drafting some players in 2012 that appeared to be better suited for a 4-3 scheme (Worthy, Perry), the best player on the defense would lose his effectiveness. Clay Matthews is a 3-4 outside linebacker, and he has been training his entire professional career to become a damn good one. He makes his money on the speed edge rush, which wouldnâ€™t be nearly as effective coming from a defensive end position with his hand in the dirt. Likewise, though Matthews is good in pass coverage, moving him to a 4-3 OLB position would remove him from the pass rush (excepting blitzes). And why would we take him away from his greatest asset?
As Zach Heilprin said on Green and Gold Today during Mondayâ€™s show, Matthews would essentially become the Aaron Kampman of a scheme switch â€“ a great player whose best qualities wouldnâ€™t fit the new scheme.
2) Missing a Tampa 2 Middle Linebacker
Some people see the effectiveness of the Tampa 2 against Aaron Rodgers and automatically think it has to be the way to go. Lovie Smith had so much success with it in Chicago, why canâ€™t we just bring him in to run the system?
Well, weâ€™ve talked about the Tampa 2 before, and the one thing you need to remember is that, outside of getting pressure from just the four lineman, the key player is the middle linebacker. The Bears have had Brian Uhrlacher, who is the quintessential Tampa 2 MLB. His instincts, intelligence, and athletic ability to cover the middle of the field are what allowed Lovie Smith to do what he did.
Who on the Green Bay Packers could possible fill that role? A.J. Hawk? Desmond Bishop? Brad Jones? D.J. Smith? Good luck with any of those. Even if a player was drafted for that role, they would need a good amount of experience to really make it work, and thereâ€™s no guaranteeing that player could even be found.
3) Switching Too Soon
The Green Bay Packers just finished their fourth year in the 3-4 scheme. Theyâ€™ve had some big problems the past couple years, but theyâ€™ve also had some great successes. Their run defense was one of the best in the league in 2009, and even with Aaron Rodgers on offense, the 2010 Super Bowl run wouldnâ€™t have happened without the plays made by the defense.
Ted Thompson and his staff have been building this defense based 3-4 player types. Sure, there are a number of guys that could make the transition easily, but there are others who would struggle. Itâ€™s a little too soon to throw away four years of development because of some bad playoff coaching. Also, please think back to what the defense looked like before Dom Capers got here.
4) The 3-4 Still Works
On a basic level, I think some fans simply donâ€™t consider the 3-4 scheme an effective one. Yes, the times are changing and offenses are evolving, but there are plenty of successful 3-4 defenses that give no indication the scheme itself is a problem. At the top are the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, who have almost become the grandfathers of the 3-4. Their effectiveness has certainly slowed down lately, but for both teams that has been primarily due to their aging superstars (Polamalu, Lewis, Harrison, Reed).
In fact, three of the four current playoff teams run a 3-4 system. The only team that doesnâ€™t â€“ the New England Patriots â€“ just recently switched back to the 4-3 and are not really known for their outstanding defense. To take it further, 5 of the top 10 defenses (according to yards allowed per game) during the Â regular season ran some type of 3-4 scheme.
While itâ€™s perfectly understandable to demand change from the defense or its coach, letâ€™s not take it overboard. It most likely wonâ€™t even happen, but in entertaining the idea of switching back to a 4-3 system, thereâ€™s just not a lot of solid reasoning behind it.â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”Follow @ChadToporski