In the past I’ve frequently criticized peoples’ attaching far too much importance to the defensive front used by a team — and several other schematic suggestions. “It’s not important WHAT you do, but HOW well you do it” has been my standard axiom.
Well … that’s not always true. An offense could run nothing but “perfect” QB Sneaks for the entire game and probably not be very successful. Sometimes doing fewer things really well isn’t good enough. Mr. FishDuck adds,
“Like the original Chip Kelly Offense”
My case in point is the current Colorado defense, which is about to become the future Oregon defense. I recently re-read a 2015 clinic lecture by Colorado Head Coach Mike MacIntyre on the Buffalos’ pass defense.
It was brilliant — the best presentation on pass defense I’d ever read. MacIntyre’s such an unathletic-looking guy; who’d have thought him to be an expert on defensive backfield techniques?
I looked further into the background of Coach MacIntyre. He started coaching DBs at Mississippi in 2001 and in 2002 Ole Miss was 5th nationally in defense (161 yards per game). From 2003-2006 he coached the Dallas Cowboys’ DBs, under HC Bill Parcells and DC Mike Zimmer, who is now HC of the Minnesota Vikings. MacIntyre credits those two guys with teaching him some expertise that he still emphasizes.
In 2008 and ’09 MacIntyre very successfully coordinated the Duke defense, and in 2009 he was voted the FBS Assistant Coach of the Year.
Due to this successful background, MacIntyre was hired as the Head Coach at San Jose State in 2010. He took the Spartans from one win in in 2010 to 10-2 in 2012. In 2012 San Jose State led their conference in interceptions and was 28th nationally in total defense. From there it was on to Colorado in 2013.
So what’s this got to do with Oregon?
Well, first those are going to be the pass defense fundamentals new Oregon Defensive Coordinator Jim Leavitt teaches to his players, especially if the Ducks are fortunate enough to “lure” MacIntyre’s long-time DBs’ coach Charles Clark away from Colorado.
Second (the main point of this article), MacIntyre’s 4-2-5 defense (with 3 safeties), even with those great pass defense techniques, wasn’t getting the job done in the Pac-12. Colorado just wasn’t physical enough to adequately stop the excellent Pac-12 rushing offenses. Something, besides better defensive football players, was needed.
And thus a symbiotic relationship was formed between Mike MacIntyre and Jim Leavitt. Leavitt had just finished two very successful seasons as the San Francisco 49ers LBs Coach, under highly-regarded Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio. The 49ers’ set of linebackers was regarded by most as the best group of run-stopping LBs in the NFL. Included in that group was All-Pro Patrick Willis, who had been an All-American for MacIntyre at Ole Miss. (Think some recommending was done by Willis?)
What if Leavitt brought his bad-ass 49ers’ 3-4 defense to Boulder to complement Colorado’s pass-efficient 4-2-5 defense? Tah-dah. A very successful system was created. On “running downs”, the Buffs would use the 3-4 defense, featuring a huge Nose Tackle playing a 2-gap, 0-technique.
On “passing downs”, a third safety would replace the NT, the defensive ends would move inside and become defensive tackles, and the outside linebackers would become stand-up speed-pass-rushing DEs. MacIntyre’s old 4-2-5 lived on, but only when needed… (See top photo of 4-2-5 defense)
Leavitt added the tough physicality to stop opponents’ running games that MacIntyre’s 4-2-5 lacked. “More was Better” in this example if it was played correctly. Even though Colorado was very predictable as to when they would use those schemes, it didn’t matter because they executed them both so well.
So Duck fans, enthusiastically look forward to 2017, knowing that whatever defensive scheme you prefer, you’ll see it. But it better be EXCELLENTLY executed.
Retired Coach Mike Morris (Grizzled Ol’ Coach)
Pleasant Hill, Oregon
Top Photo from Video