In late January, from the Senior Bowl, Buffalo Bills GM Buddy Nix made pointed comments about the direction of the team's defense.
"We can't start over every year," Nix said at the time. "You can not do that. We're a 3-4. We're scouting for a 3-4. And if we wind up with people we need to play in a four-man front some, we will. Now I think that's really what everybody [in a 3-4 scheme] does. But you gotta have a goal that this is what you're trying to get to defensively. That hasn't changed."
Yet head coach Chan Gailey hinted at the end of the Bills' 4-12 2010 season that the team would use both 3-4 and 4-3 looks. The hiring of Dave Wannstedt to the position of Assistant Head Coach/Inside Linebackers seemed to drive that point home, as Wannstedt has spent his entire career in the 4-3.
Gailey, speaking Thursday from the 2011 NFL Combine, re-iterated that the Bills will be "multiple" and "hybrid" defensively moving forward.
"I think we’re going to be a hybrid," Gailey said. "Some 3-4 and some four-man front."
Gailey continued: "I think we’re going to be a little of both. A lot of teams are doing that now, using 3-4 in certain situations and using four-man in certain situations. And that still creates the problem as long as you have enough 3-4 to keep them being honest. I think we will be multiple-hybrid."
While also mentioning that the pass rush would be a point of emphasis for the team, Gailey talked about an old adage that he and Nix established a year ago: fitting their schemes to the players the employ.
"You find the best players you can find and then you work your defense around whoever the best football players are," Gailey said Thursday. "We’ve tried to do that in all areas of our football team."
"If we are a hybrid, which I think we will be, it allows you to take Chris Kelsay and shift all the 3-4 over and now Kelsay or Merriman is a rush guy," Gailey said. "We feel like we can massage that as we need to, getting the best football players on the field."
Adjust your draft boards accordingly.