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Bill Belichick schools the media on 3-4 vs. 4-3 and why debate is ‘media fabrication’

08.04.11 at 5:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick always appreciates the enthusiasm for wanting to talk football but on Thursday he gave the media a tutorial on his approach to defensive schemes.

Namely, the 3-4 defense with three down lineman and the 4-3 defense that he employed with the Giants to win two Super Bowls.

It’s been widely assumed that Belichick has preferred the 3-4 scheme throughout his career. But when asked about his perceived preference to the three down linemen scheme, Belichick, like a college professor, stood at the podium and said the debate and hype between the two is vastly overrated.

He began with a history lesson, starting with the 2001 Patriots, who won their first Super Bowl by beating the Rams and the “Greatest Show on Turf.”

“We won two Super Bowls playing a 4-3. ’01 and ’03. Second half of the ’01 season, we played 4-3 after Bryan Cox and [Ted] Johnson got hurt,” Belichick said.

But haven’t the Patriots thrived in a three-down linemen scheme since Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour came on the scene in the early 2000s?

Nope. As a matter of fact, he continued by bringing up the 1986 Giants, who beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XX.

“Honestly, most people thought we played a 4-3 at the Giants,” Belichick said. “Lawrence Taylor did a lot more rushing than he did pass-dropping; probably 80-90 percent of the time he was the rusher in the defense. Not every play was a pass, but certainly in passing situations and a lot of pass plays, he was the designated fourth rusher, which really put us in what amounts to a 4-3.

“Honestly, I think that’s something that is a media fabrication. There are a lot of different alignments out there. You see 4-3 teams use odd spacing. You see 3-4 teams use even spacing. You have 11 players, you can put them in various positions. Whether you want to put it on the pre-game depth chart as one thing or another, I think is a little bit overrated.”

Why is it overrated?

“You play different fronts, you play different spacing, and you teach the techniques of your defense,” Belichick explained. “That is what consistent, techniques that are taught in different defensive systems, whether those teams go from three-man line to a four-man line, or a four-man line to an odd spacing line, or overs-to-unders, or unders-to-overs, or over-wides, whatever you want to call it. They will continue to play the same fundamental techniques as they’ve been teaching for the entire year, for the most part. I think that’s what teaching defensive fundamental football is about. It’s about fundamentals. Wherever you put them, you’ve got to people other people in complementary places, however you decide to do that.

“It’s pretty straight-forward really,” Belichick added. “It’s more the teaching, techniques and fundamentals you teach your defensive players, more than it is the 4-3, 3-4 lineup that is so important to put on the flip card.”

Why all of this talk? Because everyone wants to know whether the presence of nose tackle Albert Haynesworth along the front line, in addition to Wilfork will mean a change for Belichick, a change to a more aggressive approach on the D-line in an effort to get to the quarterback. It was Haynesworth who mocked and ridiculed the 3-4 in Washington.

Belichick acknowledged last year on several occasions – and already once in camp this summer – that the team needs to get to the quarterback more.

“You can never have enough pass rush,” Belichick said when word first broke of self-professed “quarterback killer” Haynesworth coming to Foxboro.

It’s just that simple.

Read More: 1986 New York Giants, 2001 New England Patriots, 2011 training camp, Bill Belichick
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