Gunther Cunningham, the 63-year-old defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions, longs for the good old days when men were men and opposing offenses used the “three yards and a cloud of dust” approach.
Today, Cunningham says, the whippersnappers with their newfangled wildcat formations drive him crazy.
“The sad thing is the NFL’s going towards the college game, and I hate it,” Cunningham told the Detroit Free Press. “I don’t care what people say about me for making a comment like that. But it’s taken five years for the NFL to change to this five wide receivers and Wildcat stuff. I remember when Jim Brown was running the ball. That’s what football is to me.”
Cunningham thinks the modern breed of offensive coordinators are getting too creative for their own good.
“The offensive guys are really cute,” Cunningham said. “They really are. I admire them. They must sit in the office 24 hours a day trying to figure out how they can screw up the defenses. And with the way the rules are, they’ve got it going. They’ve got all the guys on the competition committee and they come up with all these formations.”
Cunningham says he’s confident the NFL will move back to his preferred brand of football some day, because, in Cunningham’s view, the wildcat and spread offense put quarterbacks at risk.
“Do I like it? No,” Cunningham said. “Somewhere along the line the quarterbacks are going to start going down. Then I’ll be able to say I told you so, because when the Run and Shoot came in, I said that. I said I’ll give it four years, and it’ll be over. And it was – dead, in the water. All the quarterbacks were laying down on the ground.”
One of Cunningham’s players, rookie safety Louis Delmas, was fined this week for unnecessary roughness. In Cunningham’s view, that fine is a badge of honor.
“I know he got a penalty, and he should have,” Cunningham said. “But boy, I couldn’t help but smile because this kid knows how to play the game. He’s just got to time it up better. In the old days, that wasn’t a penalty.”
There’s a certain charm in Cunningham’s old-school approach, but there’s just one problem: The defense he coordinates ranks last in the league. Maybe Cunningham ought to open his mind to some 21st Century strategic innovations.