New Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub likes his move from Chicago, in part because he thinks a 3-4 defense gives him a better cast of players to work with.
But the guy who replaced him in Chicago has taken the opposite approach, saying he’s grateful the Bears are keeping a 4-3 scheme.
“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,” Bears special teams coach Joe DeCamillis said, via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. “Most of the time, 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.”
DeCamillis worked with 3-4 personnel in Dallas, but because of injuries that hit their defense like a plague, he was often working with third, fourth and fifth-option types of players in the kicking game.
Toub voiced the prevailing sentiment among special teams coaches, that a 3-4 gives him an advantage because of the extra linebackers that are part of the game-day active roster (since few defensive linemen have the speed required to play a big role in kick and punt coverage or return teams).
“You will have eight and sometimes nine linebackers active,” Toub said. “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.”
While either system can work, the biggest thing a special teams coach needs is health among the starters on defense. Since the majority of his unit will be the backup linebackers and defensive backs, injuries to those areas on defense can strip away his “starters” and force new guys (which are sometimes signed off the street once the season starts) into new roles.
That instability, more than any schematic decision, can spell doom for a special teams unit.