Lovie Smith: I think our defensive system is better suited for the NFL

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As the Texans prepare for their first season under head coach David Culley, the club is also preparing to implement a new defensive system under coordinator Lovie Smith.

The former head coach of the Bears and Buccaneers was fired in December after a five-year tenure with Illinois. But Smith is now back at the professional level, which he said on Thursday is likely a better fit for his scheme.

“I think when I initially left the NFL and went to college, it was probably more adjustments we had to make then,” Smith said during his press conference. “The college game, it’s a lot more quarterback-run-dominated offenses. I think our system — and everybody has a system, you tweak it from year to year. But I don’t think we’ll have to adjust ours that much.

“In college we weren’t able to run our entire system. Most of the time [offenses] go three receivers — we kept our base defense on the field. We didn’t play our nickel packages much. So I think our defense is more suited for the NFL game and we’ll make the tweaks and things like that. But we feel pretty good about what I’ve seen.”

Smith added that despite coaching in college since 2016, he’s watched the NFL to keep up with trends.

There’s clear evidence that Smith’s system didn’t work out at Illinois, with the team surrendering 35 points per game in 2020.

It’s been a while, but in the NFL, Smith’s final Bears team in 2012 finished No. 3 in points allowed and No. 5 in yards allowed. In 2015, Smith’s last with the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay finished 10th in yards allowed but 26th in points allowed.

The Texans were 27th in points allowed and 30th in yards allowed in 2020, so Smith has his work cut out for him to improve the unit to a respectable level in the upcoming season.

13 responses to “Lovie Smith: I think our defensive system is better suited for the NFL

  1. The majority of the NFL now is running with 3WRs – I believe it accounted for over 60% of the offense throughout the league. For the Texans sake I hope Smith is more willing to be open & flexible with his D or it’s going to truly be a historically looong season for the Houston.

  2. Huge pet peeve but I simply cannot understand it when coaches stay married to their scheme even when it becomes clear it isn’t working with their personnel. Lovie’s been a coach for like 40 years. You’re telling me it wouldn’t have been possible to modify his scheme for his college team? And that everybody in Houston is just going to need to hope that their personnel perfectly mesh with it?

  3. Sounds like Smith was determined to run his “system” regardless of whether he had the players equipped to make it function.
    He might have had more success in college if he utilized a system that highlighted the talents of the players he had.

  4. Lovie was a Great defensive coordinator for the Rams back in the day.

  5. Or maybe not having Brian Urlacher, Peanut Tillman, Lance Briggs, Alex Brown, and Tommie Harris could be the reason why Lovie’s defense is no longer dominant.

  6. Lovie’s defenses with the Bears were a lot more about the players than the scheme. In fact I would argue that with that level of talent the Bears actually underperformed for much of his tenure although part of that can be attributed to subpar QB play… but that’s part of the HC’s job too. The Illini gig exposed a lot of his limitations. It’s nice he’s getting another NFL shot but I’m not sure the Texans are going to be a team where anyone is happy this year, for any number of reasons.

  7. Lovie is correct in running his scheme regardless of personnel or opponent. It worked wonders for me in Detroit.


    Matt Patricia.

  8. For the Texans sake, they better hope he is much more flexible now than when he was in Tampa.

    From the way that he references his “system”, it doesn’t sound like it.

  9. For whatever reason, Lovie is married to the Tampa 2, which was damned effective in the 90s and early 2000s. However with more rules favoring QBs and WRs and the proliferation of pass catching TEs, it just doesn’t work as a primary scheme. It can work against certain formations and plays, but not as a defense’s identity.

    For any game the Texans play this year, I think taking the over is a safe bet.

  10. I remember when for Chiefs GM Scott Pioli forced the Chiefs to implement a 3-4 defensive scheme, even though they did not have the personnel to run it. Yeah, was a disaster.

  11. The Texans defense is going to be good in 2021 with JJ Watt healthy, and a good passing game to take pressure off the defense.

    Oh wait …

  12. I think even the average fan on the street could tell you that you can’t run cover 2 without world class athletes at 3 tech, mike, will, and corners who tackle like safeties.

    Not sure why a lifelong coach like Lovie thought he’d have a Tommie Harris, a Brian Urlacher, a Lance Briggs, and a Peanut Tillman at Illinois.

    And yes, NFL teams play 3 WR sets also. And Lamar Jackson was an MVP. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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