To 3-4 Or Not To 3-4, That Is The Question

3-4 defense - GeocitiesThe Miami Dolphins have a decision to make.  Well, they have many decisions to make but the one that stands on the forefront of determining the direction that this team takes is whether or not to run a 3-4 defense or a 4-3.  It has become a question that is being asked so much, that I often find myself picturing the introduction of Norman Dale to the Hickory HS fathers in “Hoosiers” and being asked “Are you going to run man to man or a zone defense?”

That is the question that is lingering these days.  Paul Pasqualoni is a 3-4 guy, Todd Bowles is a 3-4 guy and Bill Parcells is a 3-4 guy.  The problem is that the Dolphins don’t have the makeup for a 3-4.  The hybrid run by Saban and Capers is all but dead.  The answer to that question may very well determine what direction this team takes in terms of free agents and rookies.

Consider that without a true nose tackle, the Dolphins really do not have anyone to fill the center gap on the Dline to run a 34.  Jason Taylor is better suited to the 43 DE than he would be the LB/DE in a 34.  Although he has flourished, a straight 34 would be more taxing and exposing for the possible future HOF’er.  If, that is, he remains with the team.  That too may be decided on the type of defense that ultimately is decided on.

Should the Dolphins go with a 34, their number 1 off season priority becomes finding a true NT.  That is not as easy as it sounds.  In the draft, the top two guys, Dorsey and Ellis, have enough to questions surrounding them, that relying on either to fill the NT comes with some serious risk.

Obviously the real deal is Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee, but is 99 percent certain to receive the teams franchise tag, and Miami will not throw away two first rounders to steal him away.  After AH, there is a slide in FA talent, at least proven talent at that level.

So with a lack of personnel on the team, and a lack of potentially available personnel in free agency, it only makes sense to run a 4-3 this year.  Right?  Not so fast. 

It is obviously hard to imagine that the coaching staff in place in Miami will simply change to a 43 for this team for good.  So if not this year it has to be the year after, or the year after that.  Eventually.  The future of this defense is a 34.  If not now then soon enough that you really have to ask the question, why not just make the change now and live with the growing pains.

The first answer to that would be why?  Fans don’t want anymore growing pains, they want results.  Even if this team is truly in rebuild mode, they want results.  With Parcells on board now, they expect those results sooner than later regardless of who the GM and coach are.

Still, the answer has to be what is best for this team and these coaches.  If they want to succeed they will only do it with familiarity.  They will only do it within a system that they know well and are comfortable in and know how to run.  Which is why in my opinion, it is better to take the hit now than build for a future change while trying to work with what you don’t have.

The Dolphins have the money to be a free agent player, and because of that, now is the time to make a change.  Going out and buying a few guys who fit a 4-3 only to change it in a year or two is a waste.  Buying guys that are 3-4 fits only to run a 43 this year is simply more waste.  Bite the bullet, make the change, and get the players that fit it.  If you can’t, then get the players you have to fill the holes until you can replace them. 

This teams future rides on the decisions that are made this year and next combined as one.  We are starting over with a clean slate and a new set of internal guidelines.  We all know these guys run the 34 so why in the hell are we having this discussion.  I know it, you know it, we all know it.  Don’t have the team to run it?  Then get the players that can, and if you can’t, then get the players you have to adapt.

This team has wasted far too many years sacrificing their future for the year at hand.  Enough is enough.  Make the change, bite the bullet, and just do it.

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Tags: Bill Parcells Miami Dolphins Paul Pasqualoni

  • Ian

    to be honest all I have heard the last few weeks is 34 or 43….what about the 46 defense….or a straight nickel as the base D….hell I heard once about a 52 defense but I think that was BS…..but I mean there are more options than a 34 0r 43….isn’t there a chance that the dolphins could very well go with something other thatn the usual? just a thought……

  • Brian Miller

    Ian:  Honestly, I really think this is a matter of comfort for the coaches.  They know the 34 like the back of their hand.  Is it possible that this year we see more of a hybrid defense for a transistion to a full 34? Absolutely…in fact, I would have to imagine they almost have to.  As for the 52D…never heard of a straight 52 but the Dolphins under Don Shula ran a straight 53 (named after Bob Matheson and his jersey number) took them to 3 straight Super Bowls.  I dont know if the Phins would have the success with the 46 that was the catalyst under Buddy Ryan and the 85 Bears.  I just don’t think we have the personnel for that, and if we are going to try and find new players to fit the system, it might be safer to stay with what the coaches know.  But yes, there are other options, and in reality I would look for the defense this year to be a 34 transitional hybrid if that makes sense…it will probably use portions of more than just 2 defenses.

  • Ben Bruce

    Brian, the way I see it is that the system can change from 3-4 to 4-3 while keeping the philosophy intact. An article I posted on the herald about Capers follows these lines. He changed from a 3-4 to a 4-3 when he went to J-Villle because of personell, but kept his same zone blitzing philosophy. He still rushed the same amount of guys from different spots to pressure the QB in both systems. Hios philosophy of confusing the QB and pressuring him remained in both "systems" though.