coaching football`s 4

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coaching football`s 4
COACHING FOOTBALL’S
4-3 DEFENSE
Includes
information
on the eagle
front and a zone
pressure
package
“Tim Simons and Mike Freeman have done their research. Their
book on the 4-3 defense is a very thorough treatment of a defense
that has become extremely popular across the country.”
– Pat Hill, Head Coach
Fresno State University
Tim Simons
“I have great respect for Coach Simons and his football knowledge.
I really enjoyed reading his book. I found particularly interesting his
approach to defending the wing-T.”
– Fred Stengel, Head Football Coach
Bergen Catholic High School, New Jersey
“Tim Simons and Mike Freeman have been long-time students of
this game. Their book on the 4-3 defense is outstanding. It is a
must for anybody interested in the ‘quarters’ coverage that is
becoming so prevalent today.”
– Lyle Setencich, Defensive Coordinator
Texas Tech University
ISBN 978-1-58518-864-2
51995
9 781585 188642
$19.95
COACHES CHOICE
Mike Freeman
“In the revised edition of this book, Simons and Freeman have put
together an excellent zone pressure package that high schools can
use.”
– Dan Brown, Defensive Coordinator
Fresno State University
Second Edition
COACHING FOOTBALL’S
4-3 DEFENSE
COACHING FOOTBALL’S 4-3 DEFENSE
“Tim Simons’ book on the 4-3 defense is an outstanding contribution to football. Using this clear and streamlined approach,
Sherwood High School was able to convert to a 4-3 front after 27
years in the 5-2. Using this new scheme, we had statistically our
finest defense ever and captured the Maryland 4A State
Championship.”
– Bob Milloy, Head Football Coach
Sherwood High School, Maryland
SIMONS/FREEMAN
Second Edition
Tim Simons
Mike Freeman
Second Edition
Coaching Football’s
4-3 Defense
Tim Simons
Mike Freeman
©2003 Coaches Choice. Second edition. All rights reserved. Printed in the United
States.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted,
in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or
otherwise, without the prior permission of Coaches Choice.
ISBN: 1-58518-864-6
Library of Congress Control Number: 2003106730
Book layout: Jeanne Hamilton
Cover design: Jeanne Hamilton
Front cover photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Coaches Choice
P.O. Box 1828
Monterey, CA 93942
www.coacheschoice.com
2
DEDICATION
T
his book is dedicated to all of the players and coaches who have
contributed to making the Clovis High School football program a
symbol of football excellence.
3
CONTENTS
Dedication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
Chapter
1
History and Evolution of the 4-3 Defense . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
2
Understanding the 4-3 Defense . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
3
Basic 4-3, Cover 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
4
Defensive Linemen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19
5
Linebackers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35
6
Secondary Coverages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40
7
Basic Blitz Package . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60
8
Addressing Problem Areas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63
9
Defending Various Offenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77
10 Finalizing the 4-3 Package . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .100
11 The 4-3 Defense with an Eagle Front . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .110
12 A Zone Pressure Package . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .121
About the Authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .132
4
PREFACE
he defensive system described in this book is the Clovis High School version of
basic 4-3 defense that is used by many high schools, college and professional
football teams throughout the country. The book will often refer to the terminology we
use to teach our players to execute their assignments and techniques. It is, merely, our
system that we use with our players in our football program.
T
The 4-3 defense employed at Clovis High School is not the only way to play the
4-3 defense. It is the method of playing the defense that has been very effective for
us at the high school level.
We spent several years researching the 4-3 defense before we installed it into our
program. Previously, we were a traditional 3-4 defensive team. In our research, we
learned a great deal from coaches at both the high school and the collegiate level. Lyle
Setencich, Phil Snow, Artie Gigantino, Leon Burtnett, Robin Ross, and Larry Kerr were
all important contributors to our version of the 4-3 defense.
One of the primary inspirations to learn the defense was Jimmy Johnson’s book,
Turning the Thing Around. Although he never diagrammed his defense in the book,
he referred, often, to the philosophy of his defense, in which the defensive linemen
have an opportunity to be aggressive. That concept was very appealing to us.
We would be remiss in not also mentioning the defensive coaches at Clovis High
School who have put in many hours of coaching, learning, refining, and condensing the
reads, fundamentals, and strategies that have made the 4-3 defense successful in our
program: Jack Erdman, Defensive Backfield Coach; Larry Kellom, Defensive Line Coach;
and Cliff Wetzel, Linebacker Coach.
The revised second edition of this book includes two new chapters: “The 4-3 with
the Eagle Front” and “A Zone Pressure Package.” In 2000, Tim Simons became a
member of the Fresno State University football staff. Much of the information in these
new chapters is derived from that experience.
5
6
CHAPTER 1
History and Evolution of the
4-3 Defense
I
f the contribution of a creation relies on the genius of the creator, the 4-3 defense is
probably the one defensive scheme which has revolutionized defensive play. This
opinion is universally shared by all with a knowledge and an appreciation of the
football genius of the acclaimed father of the 4-3 defense, Tom Landry. Coach Landry’s
vision and innovations in the thought and philosophy of football led to his
modifications of the 1950s dominant defensive scheme into what is now recognized
as the present day pro 4-3 defense.
Coach Landry himself traced the genealogy of the 4-3 back to what was then a
version of a preseason game between the National Football League champions, the
Philadelphia Eagles and the champions of the recently defunct All-American football
Conference, the Cleveland Browns. The Cleveland Browns, along with the San
Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Colts were absorbed into the National Football
League following the 1949 season.
NFL commissioner Bert Bell arranged the preseason game between the two
league champions in the week prior to the start of the 1950 season. In that game, Paul
Brown’s Cleveland Browns defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 35-10. In attendance at
the game was the longtime head coach of the New York Giants, Steve Owen.
Steve Owen had watched Paul Brown dissect the long successful and popular
eagle defensive scheme. The eagle scheme had been the popular scheme for the last
three to four years following the end of World War II. Earle “Greasy” Neale devised the
eagle defense in response to the offensive strategy of incorporating the running backs
into the more and more common passing attacks of the post-war era. (Neale’s eagle
defense is the forerunner of Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense of the 1985 Super Bowl
champion Chicago Bears.)
7
Brown’s strategy against the eagle was to flair the backs to widen and occupy the
linebackers as he used the ends to exploit the uncovered middle of the field. The result
was a resounding victory for the Browns and a shiver sent down the spine of the
collective NFL coaches in attendance, including Steve Owens.
Owens’ Giants faced the Browns the very next week in the season opener. Owens,
known as a defensive innovator around the league, went to work and devised the 6-1
front backed by the umbrella secondary scheme. Tom Landry, the unofficial 25-yearold player-coach, was left to work out the details of the new scheme. The details were
worked out and the Giants defeated the high-powered Browns, 6-0.
In 1954, Landry was made an official player-coach under head coach Jimmy Lee
Howell. By 1955, Landry had retired from playing but the father of the 4-3 had
visualized the type of middle linebacker he needed for the 4-3 defense. When Sam
Huff arrived in training camp, Landry realized he had found his prototype middle
linebacker, and he then transformed the 6-1 umbrella into the pro 4-3.
The defensive theory of the time was one of containment first and pursuit second.
Containing the edge would drive the ballcarrier to the middle of the field and into the
pursuit. Landry reversed this philosophy and placed the emphasis on inside-out pursuit
driving the ball to the containment. The job of the Landry 4-3 four defensive linemen
was to use up or occupy the five offensive linemen, thus allowing the middle
linebacker the freedom to roam the field and wreck havoc. Additionally, the presence
of the two outside linebackers (the advantage of the eagle) was welded with the
umbrella coverage scheme to provide blanket pass coverage. The 4-3 defense was
born.
In Bob St. John’s book, The Landry Legend: Grace Under Pressure, Landry
described his thoughts in designing the front: “The 4-3 was a combination of the eagle
defense and the umbrella. The eagle defense had begun taking on a 4-3 look because
they’d put an extra back in for a linebacker to help on passing downs. He’d be standing
up. It was becoming obvious to me that the thing to do was keep the ends dropped
off, covering the flare areas, making them linebackers.”
The current trend of the college 4-3 is to move the front to a slide look. The 4-3
base front we use at Clovis High School is typical of the college 4-3 alignment.
Ironically, Landry made a telling prediction in 1959 about the future of the 4-3.
Landry predicted the 4-3 would in some way evolve into a gap control front such as
the slide. Landry went on to say the offenses of the future would then be faced with
the difficult task of developing strategies to combat the slide 4-3 front.
Over three decades later, Landry is proven to be a prophet of the game as well as
a founding father. Offensive coordinators across the country are scratching their heads
while playing catch-up in their quest to outflank the 4-3 alignment.
8

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