Chip Kelly says the 3-4/4-3 distinction is outdated

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New Eagles coach Chip Kelly has heard a lot of questions about whether Philadelphia will have a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense. He says those questions miss the point.

Kelly says that what the Eagles will run is a defense that best uses their talent and best fits what they need at a given time in a given game. And he says that in the modern NFL, there’s no team that always has a three-man front or always has a four-man front anyway.

“No. 1, it hinges on the players that we have,” Kelly said, via “Then No. 2, it hinges on the situation of the game. There are no purists. No one runs a 3‑4 defense every single down. No one runs a 4-3 every single down. People have elements of both in there.”

Kelly said determining whether the Eagles use more three-man lines or more four-man lines will be based on evaluating his own personnel and evaluating what opposing offenses are doing.

“In nickel, you may be in a four‑down [lineman] operation, but who are you playing? A team that throws the ball a lot. So we’re going to be a more four-down this week. So 65 percent of our snaps will be four-down defense,” Kelly said. “Other teams are going to be a little bit more three‑down. But if you’re going to play three‑down, you better make sure you got a nose that can two‑gap and defensive end that can two‑gap and those things, because if you don’t have them, it doesn’t matter how you deploy yourself defensively, you’re not going to be able to hold up.”

In other words, just as there’s no easy way to label the offense Kelly plans to run in Philadelphia, there’s also no easy way to label the defense.

66 responses to “Chip Kelly says the 3-4/4-3 distinction is outdated

  1. Yes, anyone who has played Madden knows this but you will still primarily be known as one or the other.

  2. That’s an idiotically obvious statement to anyone who has followed football over the last ten years.

  3. This post could have been “No team runs its templated base defense for an entire game. Some teams are in their base D less than 1/3 of the time.”

  4. Why try to label something that you’ve never seen in the NFL yet? Why not at least let him coach a few games before trying to label anything?

  5. I thought everyone knew this years ago? In other news helmets are no longer made of leather.

  6. So what Chip is saying is that for example, if an offense comes out with four wide receivers on the field, there is a good chance the defense may counter with two extra defensive backs. Or if the offense is in a goal line formation to punch it in, the defense might bring in some extra meat and potatoes on the line instead of staying in a traditional formation. Mindblowing!

    Of course no defense stays in their base formation the entire game. That is why you hear them referred to as a 3-4 or 4-3 BASE defense Mr. Kelly. And people wonder why some college coaches struggle in the pros…

  7. The distinction between paying/not paying college players is outdated too.

    No, we pay everybody BUT them….recruiters, people who can influence their decision…..basically money goes any and everywhere except to the players themselves (unless you’re Miami)

  8. Why do I get the feeling veteran coaches in the league can’t wait to expose this guy?

  9. The real question is how many guys are playing 2 gaps. It seems like Chip Kelly would prefer to have at least two guys up front covering two gaps, maybe three.

  10. This is going to be a fun team to watch this season. I like how Chip is answering to all of the critics unlike Andy Reid. If he was still their coach, we probably wouldn’t have heard from him until after the draft.

    Go IGGLES!!!!

  11. The distinction between Pete Carroll’s departure at USC and Kelly’s departure at Oregon is also unclear.

  12. I would agree. From my own point of view watching the Pats, BB isn’t the steadfast 3-4 anymore. They switch, not just between games, but between series and sometimes even plays, depending on what they are looking to stop. With a DT like Wilfork, it’s much easier to do than many other teams, but I think you’ll see this more and more as offenses become more fluid (more pass-happy and yet more options in the run game), so must the defense.

    Maybe in 10 years we’ll all be looking back at the beginning of the 2010’s as a transformational era for defenses, when the labels of yesteryear fell by the wayside in preference to just getting the defense you want/need on the field.

  13. I can’t recall ever seeing a Dick Lebeau D with 4 down lineman. Just saying.
    While I agree that the NFL is becoming more hybrid than the classical distinctions, there are teams that employ strictly a 4-3 or a 3-4.

  14. Really, if you’re describing your DT as a NT or referring to either the NT or the DE’s as being “2-gap”, you’re essentially a 3-4 team. Can you have various sub packages with 4 down linemen? Of course. But, of the 25 players you put on your defensive unit, you’re gonna stock them with a 3-4 in mind.

  15. Kelly is just another over ambitious college coach that comes into a college and brings along a cheating sandal then leaves behind a mess. He should be barred from coaching anywhere for as long as the penalties remain.

  16. Is there a quota of at least 3 Chip Kelly stories a day that must be met?

    Expect to see the following headline sometime before noon:

    “Chip Kelly enjoys his daily morning bowel movement at Eagles facilities: Players impressed with his regularity”

  17. spoken like a true loser.!!!!! you haven’t had a real practice yet or a game of any kind. chipper your starting to sound like the guy in ny. 60 years chipper and an empty trophy case to go with it.

  18. Lets not be a hypocrite, 3/4ths of the universities in the country are paying the players with something other than education in some shape or form. Anyway, I like how Chip is approaching these off/def questions. Keep ’em guessing Chip, keep ’em guessing!!…E-A-G-L-E-S…EAGLES!!!

  19. I think the notion that all Vick needs is the right coach/GM to be a superboal caliber QB is outdated by about 10 years.

  20. Oh boy….. this guy reminds me of the ole’ ball coach Spurrier when he came to the skins and made a mockery of our organization. Sorry Eagles fans, it’s just going to get worse. Good luck with this guy.

  21. Translation: When the former head coach left me with, quite possibly the softest roster in the NFL, does it matter what defense we run? Does it really matter? And don’t even get me started on my quarterback situation…

  22. Well he’s right.. And if you want to challenge his knowledge about the game and say he is wrong, my money is on Chip.

    Loving the attitude he is bringing to Philly. And to all those sports writers out there who said players wouldn’t buy in, you are wrong once again. The mini camps have been a huge success and every player that was on the roster when he arrived or were signed this off season is extremely optimistic. Best part about it, is that no one in the league knows what to expect. Let’s get it!

    Go Eagles.

  23. this guy may get suspended by NFL due to his NCAA violations from Oregon…the NFL suspended former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel a few yrs back I believe…I hope the Eagles have a backup plan if this guy get suspended and Chip has the nerve to say 3-4/4-3 scheme is outdated..he hasn’t coached an NFL game yet; Chip need to keep his mouth closed and hope there aren’t any sanctions against him

  24. This is dumb. You only have so many guys on the roster and so much cap space. Players only know how to run so many plays in so many different situations. Sure you can “play” different formations at different times, but you’re still making choices as to which you’ll be better at.

  25. Why are we acting like this coach has two Superbowls rings or something. He hasn’t won one game in the NFL yet…he hasn’t even won a college national championship. What he says doesn’t matter yet.

  26. Another college coach that before he coaches an NFL game is an expert on everything.

    Egals fans better hope this guy is a smart as HE thinks he is.

  27. But how does he feel about running a program that cheated its way to a near national championship?

  28. Yes, but Eagle fans know that the distinction between “Wide 9” and “Good Defense” is alive and well. As is the distinction between “Offensive Line Coach” and “Defensive Coordinator”.

  29. He was stating the obvious to a group of reporters who want Pigeon hole his philosophies which is impossible. Kelly himself doesn’t know what the end result will look like because he is still building his roster. I will say this I have been following Kelly for a number of years and people who think he will fail in the NFL are dead wrong. The man is a brilliant mind and very respected in the coaching profession.

  30. Some really bizarre reactions to Kelly’s comments considering other coaches and NFL people have been saying the same thing for the past couple of years. This isn’t really news. He’s not saying anything new, just observing what’s been going on in the NFL.

  31. No matter who the coach is really doesn’t matter, yet. Andy Reid left one hell of a mess to clean up. Plus the Eagles don’t have a QB so they aren’t going anywhere this year.

  32. “Lets not be a hypocrite, 3/4ths of the universities in the country are paying the players with something other than education in some shape or form.”

    Please cite your source or stop spewing nonsense.

    Pick one.

  33. Still waiting to hear what was up with all the steroids found in room of the assistant strength training coach at the Eagles training camp last summer. Yes I know you will delete this as usual. Coverup.

  34. I think that was an exact quote from Steve Spurrier just after he took the Redskins job. I think Bobby Petrino said it best when he said “I don’t care if you call it the 5-4, it’s just football”.

    No, it’s the NFL.

    And the song by Queen plays in the background (another one bites the dust). And another one gone, and another one gone, another one bites the dust…..

    Sorry Eagles fans, but the track record of coaches coming out of college directly into the NFL is pretty bad. The Cowboys are the only successful organization to bring in two college coaches and win Super Bowls. Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer. However, Switzer really does not count, since he was riding piggy back on the sidelines on Jimmy’s back that season.

    Not For Long. Welcome to the NFL Chip.

  35. No the 3-4 is the 3-4 and the 4-3 is the 4-3. 2 very different styles with two very different personel. I know everything from phily camp is that chip is reinventing football, but football is football. You run the ball and you play defense. you have to be able to do those things or else you can’t win. high tempo passing attacks are great, but you know who hates that-every defensive player on the team. exhausted by the 4th quarter. once you clear away all of the razzle-dazzle football is still being able to smack someone in the mouth and imposing your will on another team. Pizazz fades.

  36. I don’t have anything wrong with Chip Kelly and he is talking about a scheme to fit his current players. Many coaches come with 3-4 or 4-3 in mind and its a disaster because they don’t have the right personnel. Many teams are in their nickel packages after first downs even more than 5 years ago. Someone used an example of the Steelers sticking 3-4..That is about the only team I can think maybe Bears & Bengals. But the list is huge for teams coming out of base after 1 down.

  37. I think a lot of people are misinterpreting what Chip Kelly is saying. I don’t believe he is talking about different packages in terms of dime or 30 packages.
    I believe what he sincerely means is that his “base defense” could range anywhere from having 3 down lineman and 4 linebackers to 4 down lineman and 3 linebackers to anywhere in between simply based on who they are playing. To therefore classify himself as a “base 3-4” would be misguided and create situations where fans expect one thing and get another.
    I think he is being intelligent in what he is saying and give him kudos.

    Typically I hate most things associated with the Eagles, Chip Kelly is doing a good job in my opinion.

  38. I agree! two of the top defenses in the league like SEA and SF use a hybrid form of 3-4, 4-3 .. something like a 4-3 under where the 4 LB is lined up at the line as DE but standing up.. so far its worked for both teams very well i would say.

  39. Sure, what he is saying might be common knowledge, but the fact is…no one has come out and said it. Everyone keeps trying to label his offense and defense and he just flat out said, “look, you can’t do that, the game isn’t played like that anymore.” and he is right.

    He isn’t trying to come off as some football “guru” with magical insight to the game that no one else has. You goofballs posting here and the others ones writing the articles are the ones doing that.

    He may be stating the obvious, but its only because people keep asking him stupid questions. If you all seem to know that no one plays primarily in one set, then why do you keep asking him what set he plans to play in? DERP!

  40. I only care if Kelly labels himself as a Winner or a Loser by virtue of his job performance.

    Everything else is just details and semantics. This is a game about who has the real goods and the best strategy and approach, not a game of who is the best label assigner.

    Which one are you Chip? And please list in advance all possible excuses in case you do lose just so that we are on the same page and then the labels will become crystal clear.

  41. already talking like he knows what’s going on. he’s awfully confident that he will shake up the NFL. leaning on the podium with that half smile and that twinkle in his eye. There’s no Boise State on this schedule Chipper.

  42. He misses the point. Its important to know the “base” package you run “most of the time”, and that allows you to better plan to move players into other non-base packages to scheme against offensive plays accordingly. If you don’t define a base package, how do you reference player position in alternative packages – sometimes within the same set and down?

    I am sure Kelly’s statement appeals to some people’s idea of the game, but what he is saying is not practical. All schemes need to start with a base package of some sort.

  43. As an Eagles fan Chip Kelly scares me…

    His arrogance is all too Spurrier like….

    I miss Big Red. I envy the Chiefs.

  44. ahostiletakeover says”:
    Apr 18, 2013 7:34 AM

    Of course no defense stays in their base formation the entire game. That is why you hear them referred to as a 3-4 or 4-3 BASE defense Mr. Kelly. And people wonder why some college coaches struggle in the pros…”

    I really don’t understand why some commenters say that Kelly will fail miserably because he refuses to label his defense.

    He’s dead right. What’s the BASE defense anyway? The most logical definition would be the defense that you run most of the time, right? Well, that varies from opponent to opponent. By that definition, most base defenses can’t be a 3-4 or 4-3 simply because you need 5 or more defensive backs to face the spread attacks that are most common these days.

    NFL coaches have been saying it for years. Belichick said it last season, for example. Labeling 3-4 or 4-3 is more of a media thing rather than a real football coaching thing. I don’t see why suddenly it’s a bad thing for Kelly to say.

  45. rkt4mayor says:
    Apr 18, 2013 12:43 PM
    As an Eagles fan Chip Kelly scares me…

    His arrogance is all too Spurrier like….

    That’s why he is a perfect fit for the Eagles….lol

  46. Hasn’t even coached a game and I can’t stand the guy already. Keep your mouth shut and learn from the dream team talk. Never heard so much about the Skins and Eagles in an offseason before, especially one without many free agent pick-ups.

  47. 95% of you mouth runners apparently don’t comprehend what you read.

    The point that Chip was making is,, he will play the defensive front he has personnel for.

    Reid left this team in shambles with his drafting & player selection. Last year, you couldn’t find 5 players that would start for any good teams..

    & logical voices say that Bobby Griffen won’t be ready till week 6. . but keep running your mouth toolyMctoolerson

  48. This clown Chip just doesn’t get it that unlike college football, in the NFL he will have a 53 man roster. So playing both a 3-4 and a 4-3 defense effectively will be nearly impossible in the NFL.

    Coaches are forced to make a commitment personnel wise to one or the other and then naturally they may switch it up a bit. So will he draft a DE (4-3) or an OLB(3-4)?

    Chip you aren’t in Oregon anymore.

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