The Cleveland Browns and their 3-4 Stink-fence
By Chris Newton
Dec 27, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Charcandrick West (35) carries the ball against Cleveland Browns defensive end Desmond Bryant (92) and outside linebacker Paul Kruger (99) in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won the game 17-13. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
If the Cleveland Browns are going to stay committed to a 3-4 defense, they must start running it the correct way.
In a previous article, I posited that it is very important in the hiring process to hire a coach, not his philosophy, and that the coach either shares your philosophy or will adopt it as his own.
Breaking that down into plain English, if your team has embraced a 4-3 defense, then the coach you hire will either share that scheme belief or will adopt it as his own – meaning you don’t accommodate a coach.
See the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It was never more apparent how bad the Cleveland Browns have become until Sunday when, again, the defensive squad surrendered first downs and let the Kansas City Chiefs move up and down the field in the first half of what would become a 17-13 loss. Really, the game would have been over at halftime if the Chiefs hadn’t become passive at the end of the second quarter, as they had opportunities to put another three to 10 points on the board.
The play calling on defense continues to be baffling. There was one drive where linebacker Paul Kruger made a tackle down field after a five- to six-yard pass play, meaning that he was in coverage. Later in the half, linebacker Nate Orchard made an interception, meaning that he was back in coverage.
While on the surface it is nice to have the outside linebackers out there making plays, really, who would you rather have the outside linebackers tackling? The slot receiver six yards down field (where a safety or middle linebacker could make the tackle), or the quarterback five yards deep?
You would rather have the quarterback getting hit and hurried every play, not the interception on one fluke play. (Fun fact: Combined, the Browns’ outside linebackers have two interceptions this year, which is one more than the cornerbacks combined.)
Upon even further reflection, defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil‘s apparent refusal to send pressure at opposing quarterbacks this season with the outside linebackers leads us to a startling revelation: we don’t even know the names of our defensive ends! It would be easy enough to do the research and find out, but the fact that those names don’t readily come to mind makes us wonder if, based on the 31st-ranked run defense, do they even exist?! We know the nose tackle’s name (only because he is a first-round draft pick) and remember Jamie Meder, but only because we followed his story in training camp.
That’s pretty bad.
That led us to try to sort our way through the philosophy behind a 3-4 defense and the numbers game problems that it presents to offenses. This is actually the point of this article and we hope to really drive home why gutting this coaching staff makes more and more sense as you get deeper and deeper.
Next: The basics of a 3-4 defense