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Examining the roots of the 3-4 defense-a history lesson


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Eric Mangini remembers the 1994 Browns season. Just 23 at the time, Mangini was in his first year in the NFL, serving as a public relations intern and a ball boy with the club. In the following season -- the last for the original Browns in Cleveland -- he served the team as a coaching assistant.


Now at 38, he's returned to the Browns as their head coach. He's exploring every aspect of the team in an attempt to get the Browns back on track after last year's 4-12 finish.


But unlike then-Browns head coach Bill Belichick did in 1994, Mangini is sticking with his defense. And his defense is the the 3-4, the same alignment that Romeo Crennel used for his four seasons as Browns coach and the same alignment that helped Belichick, Crennel and Mangini win three Super Bowls together earlier this decade with the Patriots.


It's understandable that Mangini would retain the 3-4.


"I've been a part of it for a significant amount of time," Mangini said during his introductory press conference in Cleveland when asked to explain what he likes about the 3-4 and why it will use it, just as he did during his three years as head coach of the New York Jets.


"You can argue the merits of a 4-3 and a 3-4, but the one thing I like about the 3-4 is that you can reduce defensive ends and form 4-3 concepts out of that base part. It's a balance, and you have the ability to rush any of the four linebackers to create whatever front you want. You can move the defensive ends towards the nose and run whatever fronts you want.


"You aren't necessarily married to the concept of always adjusting the defensive line or always adjusting the secondary. There's a ton of flexibility, and it's been very effective over time.


"Everybody has a different way to run it."


Yes, everybody does have a different way to run the 3-4, and it's not clear yet exactly what way the Browns will choose for 2009. But no matter what type of 3-4 they run, if it's hard for foes to decipher, then the defense will have a great chance to be successful.


Just as it was when it was used by the 3-4's pioneers, and there are many.


Much history.................continue article here








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