TBP stands for Team Building Preface or the P could stand for prelude or prologue if you prefer. Basically, I'm in the process of writing a bunch of fanposts about how I think teams win in this league and how I think they should be built as a result. The first couple posts will be about run defense and overall building theory as well as statistics and their significance, kind of a moneyball type thing. I'm planning posts on free agency, positional importance and the draft as well. It's basically how I plan on focusing all my offseason football thought and time. It's also an attempt to channel some frustration into something more positive than just going around this blog and disagreeing with people on specific subjects that never actually allow me to put my bigger picture ideas out there to back up those arguments. I just thought I'd throw all that out there because I think this Wannstedt rant that I wrote up but never published a couple of weeks ago is in the general direction of where my team building posts are going to go and that it'd be a good way to kick things off.
I think Bills fans have really overrated Dave Wannstedt as a football coach, even as a defensive coordinator or football mind in general. Der Jaeger made a great point about not worrying about his Pitt defenses because college coaches get so few hours to install scheme or coach in general. But I worry about the way that program underachieved in general. He took over a team that won a share of the Big East Championship the year before and consistently had top 25ish recruiting classes including a 2006 class that Scout.com ranked 11th overall.
I'm going to ask a question about Dave Wannstedt and I want anybody who reads this to actually take a moment and come up with an answer in their head. What was Wanny's record in bowl games at Pitt? He was the HC for six years. I've mentioned the program and talent he had there. Obviously, it's a bad record if I'm asking, right? Maybe it's 2-4 or something? It's one win and one loss. He failed to go to a bowl his first three years at Pitt, then had the great success of bringing home a Meineke Car Bowl Trophy.
I've got two issues with the Wannstedt hire and here's the first one, it's just another recycled name from the good ol boys network of coaches. I've mentioned I think he's a mediocre coach in general, but that goes beyond his HC resume. Every achievement of Wannstedt's career has come with Jimmy Johnson calling the shots. He got his first DC gig when Johnson promoted him at Oklahoma St. Johnson hired him as the DC at Miami. Johnson brought him into the NFL when he was hired at Dallas. Wannstedt won a National Championship at Miami and a Super Bowl in Dallas and had great defenses there, but he has never been able to replicate that success without Jimmy Johnson. His resume might as well read: Dave Wannstedt, on Jimmy Johnson's staff and a great football coach from the mid 80s to the early 90s and great friend of Jimmy Johnson and mediocre football coach from the mid 90s to current. References: Jimmy Johnson and since his name is impressive, I don't even need to list anybody else. That's how the good ol boys network works in coaching.
2nd issue is, IMO, this hire is reactionary and an example of the directionless, focus lacking defense that we've got and that Nix has been acquiring player after player for. My issue is not about 4-3 vs. 3-4 in a where do you line players up, where do the guys on the roster fit best type of problem. I understand that a defense is about the players much more than the scheme. But I've got no confidence in this organization's ability to acquire players that can come together as a group and be an organized defense that actually accomplishes things as a group. This is my opinion due to the defense Buffalo has put on the field these last two years, a move towards the 4-3 this year and hybrid defenses in general. Allow me to explain:
One of the main advantages that a 3-4 scheme allows is the ability to put an undersized pass rusher on the weakside and let him take on an OT in space, or with good scheming and a nice blitz than that OLB can be left to beat a TE on the strongside or a RB in the backfield. But Buffalo doesn't seem at all interested in going after that type of player. Nix seems to be infatuated with size. A 6'3'', 245 pound pass rusher wouldn't fit in the 4-3 as you can't scheme around an inability to set the edge at DE and if left as a LB, that pass rusher would be just a situational guy. The Bills have practically gone out of their way to try and keep a player like Moats from getting snaps at OLB, will a move towards the 4-3 push Nix into not going after players who are actually a little bigger and stronger than Moats, but still not 4-3 fits?
Justin Tuck is a versatile lineman in the 4-3 and a poor fit in the 3-4. Same for a Chris Long or Charles Johnson. Those guys are ideal 4-3 ends who could play on either side of the line or bounce inside to DT for some nickel looks. Would the Bills draft a player like that? I don't think they would consider somebody who is a poor 3-4 fit.
If the Bills were to switch over to a 4-3, one advantage that they can put into their scheme is a 225 pound coverage linebacker that moves around the field like an extra safety. It's a player that wouldn't fit in a 3-4 and I know that Buffalo has utilized Bryan Scott like that, but would this team actually spend a 2nd round pick on Zach Brown or a 3rd rounder on Lavonte David or Travis Lewis or even a 4th/5th on Sean Spence? Stopping the TE is more important every year, but what is Buffalo's plan to match up better with those players?
Will the Bills leave value on the draft table and potential advantages off the chalkboard because of their lack of schematic direction? That's my concern. A hybrid scheme offers some versatility, but not more than a 4-3 or 3-4 does, just a different kind. A common pro 3-4 argument is that it's more difficult for offenses to play against, but I don't think that's true at all. A neat tidbit from the announcers of the Saints v. Lions playoff game was that Gregg Williams and the Saints' 4-3 defense had the most plays where they only rushed three players in the entire league. Running a hybrid doesn't open anything up for Buffalo's defense, it just closes options down.
I don't want this to sound like a response to DJ's stories about scheme not mattering because it's pure coincidence that I'm posting this now. But I know how this next line is going to read and I'm throwing it out there anyways, I don't care where Buffalo lines up their players, I care why they are lined up where they are. I care about why player X is on the field instead of player Y or why player X was drafted instead of player Y. It's about what Buffalo is trying to accomplish and I'm not sure Buffalo actually knows what they are trying to do.
That's my issue with the Wannstedt hire. I don't think Buffalo has any direction on defense. I think they're just reshuffling pieces and hoping for average. I don't think they're building with any specific direction in mind and yet, I think that gives them fewer options on draft day. Does this team have an actual concise plan or are they just going to fill positional holes with big southern college players and hope some oversized, underathletic, run defense centered front seven can come together under Wannstedt?
The way I do my mocks is to find somebody else's mock that is at least 5 rounds long and then I pick for the Bills, choosing from players available when the Bills pick. It simulates a real draft because you're not in control of who is available and you've got no idea whether or not available players will be picked before your next selection.
1 - Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame - Maybe it's just because I enjoy a drink or 12 myself, but the alcohol stuff doesn't bother me with Floyd. IMO, his pair of citations for underaged drinking never happen if he's from the southeast and goes to an SEC school. The DUI is another story, but he's been an entirely different player since that happened. He lost a bunch of weight and looked far more polished on the field this season than he did earlier in his career. I think he's a legit top 10 prospect and much closer to Justin Blackmon (maybe even ahead of, if that doesn't sound too crazy) than people give him credit for. I think he's maybe the BPA at 10.
2 - Vinny Curry, DE/OLB Marshall - I think the Curry fans overrate his athleticism a bit, but he's a great combo of value, need and fit in the second round. Curry is the total package with a solid burst, ideal frame, good strength and the kind of motor and aggressive style that teams look for.
3 - CobyFleener, TE, Stanford - Kind of a Scott Chandler type right now. But he's got some athletic upside to his game. More sudden and explosive than Chandler is and that athletic ability could lead to him being a better route runner and even run blocker than Chandler. Should fill out nicely and be able to contribute as an in-line TE down the road.
4 - Cam Johnson - DE/OLB Virginia - I like his ability to be above average in both a 3-4 and a 4-3. Can play both strong and weakside in either scheme. Could be a Kelsay-esque pro and has untapped pass rushing potential on top of that.
4 - Shea McClellin, DE/OLB Boise St. - Versatile, fairly athletic, high motor, pretty productive player. I don't get why everybody doesn't have McClellin listed in the 3rd round range. I think he'll end up getting drafted pretty early and make a bit of an impact as a rotational player as a rookie. I wasn't necessarily planning on taking this many pass rushers, but if it works out this way for the Bills, I certainly won't complain.
5 -Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona St. - I wasn't planning on drafting a QB because I don't think this is a good class if you're not a Tannehill believer in the first. I just don't like Foles or Russell Wilson or any of the big stat guys from smaller conferences. But I couldn't pass up on Osweiler any longer when he was still here in the 5th. If nothing else, he's got the tools to be great and that's worth a look and a couple years of development at this point in the draft.
6 -Levy Adcock, OT/OG, Oklahoma St. - Maybe an oversight by the mocker, but whatever, I'm all over Adcock this late. I've read concerns about his footwork and some inconsistent bending, but even if that pushes him inside, his power as a run blocker would still make him a potentially very good player at guard.
6 -Micah Pellerin, CB, Hampton - Impressive size/athleticism combo worth developing. Listed at 6'1'', 195, has the skill set to be a good man cover guy who can play inside or outside.
7 -Desmond Marrow, CB, Toledo - SS size at 6'3'', 210, but is plenty athletic enough to stay at CB. Ideally, he develops into a nickel option that can use his size to disrupt the Wes Welkers of the league and the size/speed combo to be a matchup option against TEs. Potentially a schematic advantage against a team that relies on a TE for mismatches.