Skip to main content

What type of defense do special teams coordinators prefer?

Living in Dallas, sports talk shows are in the midst of month-long obsession of debating the merits of a 3-4 defense versus the 4-3 with the hiring of Monte Kiffin to run the Cowboys' defense. Here's one angle the talking heads have yet to broach: what system do special teams coordinators prefer?

Chicago Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis coincidentally just left the Cowboys and will alternate from a 3-4 to a 4-3. 

“I have worked in both systems now and I would much rather be in a 4-3 system because of the fact that you really have some speed at the linebacker position,” DeCamillis told the Chicago Tribune. “Most of the time, (in a) 3-4 you are playing with bigger people. And, I think the 4-3 is gonna be something that is going to help us and it’s helped this team in the past.

“All I can tell you is what I would prefer,” DeCamillis continued. “A lot of times when you think about the 3-4, you’re talking about linebackers on the outside but they are really defensive end-type bodies on the outside. And in the 4-3, you are getting three backups all the way across the board that can run and hit and that’s what it really takes to play on teams.”

Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub gave a dissenting opinion. 

"I think a 3-4 is better,” Toub said. “You get more linebackers active on the 46-man game day roster. You will have eight and sometimes nine linebackers active. Every time we played a 3-4 team I always thought it was rough for us matchup-wise because they always had more linebackers than us. I always thought a 3-4 was the best special teams situation you can be in."

“That is why in a 4-3, when you run special teams, you always have to have a defensive end like Izzy (Idonije) or Corey Wootton. You have to have one of those guys be a good special teams player. In a 3-4 you don’t because you’ve got more linebackers. That is the difference.”

Considering the premium both coaches place on the number of available linebackers, if it were up to the guys running the special teams we would see the sparsely-used 0-11-0 alignment catch fire throughout the NFL.