A Defensive Scheme Mystery

There is always going to be a good debate between fans on how the Raiders should scheme on defense. It really doesn’t matter what side you are on, because there are good arguments for both sides. There has been speculation on what Reggie McKenzie prefers as his defense and he was asked in his introductory press conference if he preferred the 3-4 to the 4-3 defense and he indicated that he did not have a preference, although he later said “3-4 is what I know.” McKenzie has made it clear many times to the public that he intends to let the head coach hire his own staff and that the coaching staff has the freedom to run what ever scheme they feel gives the team the best chance to win.

We know that McKenzie comes over from Green Bay where they ran a 3-4 defense and won a Super Bowl while running the 3-4 defense. However, the Packers didn’t always run that style of defense. In fact, they just recently made the transition to the 3-4 defense in 2009.

What this means:

1) McKenzie has spent plenty of time around a 4-3 defense. Which is what the Raiders currently run.

2) McKenzie knows what it takes to make the conversion to a 3-4 from a 4-3.

3) McKenzie has seen what a successful 3-4 defense looks like and was part of building it.

Defensive scheme aside, McKenzie’s first order of business is finding a new head coach. Of the potential candidates to this point, four of them are defensive coaches (Winston Moss, Todd Bowles, Dennis Allen and Dom Capers). Three of the four candidates would be coming from a base 3-4 defense.

Winston Moss was hired to be the linebackers coach in Green Bay in 2006. They were still running a base 4-3 at the time. He was promoted to assistant head coach in 2007 and was the only defensive coach not fired after a horrible season in 2008. In 2009 they made the switch to the 3-4 and Moss became an inside linebackers coach. Two years later they had one of the most feared defenses in the league on their way to winning a super bowl. Since switching to the 3-4, the Packers hold a combined +58 turnover ratio in three seasons. Moss could still prefer the 4-3 to the 3-4 or he could be a convert to the 3-4. No one really knows.

Todd Bowles has been a secondary coach his entire career to this point, most recently with the Miami Dolphins, where he was also an assistant head coach. Before coming to Miami Bowles was a secondary coach for Dallas which also ran the 3-4. When Bowles was hired by Miami they were still running the 4-3, but soon after Bowles got there they also made the conversion to a 3-4 under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Bowles, like Moss, has 3-4 experience and has seen a team through the conversion process from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base defense.

Dennis Allen began his NFL coaching career with Atlanta in 2002 as a defensive quality control assistant. Hired by the Saints in 2006 as an assistant defensive line coach and later coached the secondary for the Saints in their 3-4 defense. Last year he was hired as the defensive coordinator of the Broncos and ended the 3-4 experiment and switched back to a 4-3.

Dom Capers has been around the league for a while and held a variety of different positions from position coach to head coach. He was hired as defensive coordinator by the Packers in 2009 to help transition their defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4. As noted above the Packers have since won a super bowl and have a +58 turnover ratio during Capers time as defensive coordinator.

McKenzie is still interviewing to make sure he finds the right guy, but it seems pretty obvious that if a defensive coach gets the job the Raiders could very well be moving to the 3-4 in the next few seasons. If McKenzie hires an offensive coach, it will be up to that coach which defensive scheme will be installed.

Regardless of how it plays out it will be an interesting offseason for the Raiders.

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