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Buffalo Bills Coaching Search: Do Fans Prefer Style Or Scheme On D?

Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone has begun searching for defensive coordinator candidates, which means it's time for fans to start debating what type of defense they'd like to see installed.

Matt Sullivan

Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone is moving fast in beginning work on building his coaching staff, reportedly requesting permission to interview Mike Pettine (New York Jets) and Mel Tucker (Jacksonville Jaguars) for the Bills' defensive coordinator post. (The Bills have already received permission to talk to Pettine.)

The first two coordinator candidates bring about an interesting debate that's especially pertinent on the defensive side of the ball, where the Bills were so horrendous in 2012: does scheme matter more than style, or vice versa?

It's fact that Buffalo's current defensive personnel is better suited to playing a 4-3 scheme than the 3-4. The Bills tried a 3-4 in 2010 and 2011 with disastrous results, spent the 2012 off-season gearing up for a switch to the 4-3, and then somehow got worse. Still, on paper, the Bills are much easier to slot into a 4-3 scheme than a 3-4.

Pettine, who has worked with Rex Ryan throughout his 11-year coaching career, has operated out of a base 3-4 for the vast majority of his career, only dabbling in more four-man lines in recent seasons as offenses spread the field more frequently. Tucker, meanwhile, is more of a 4-3 guy - he's run it for the last four years in Jacksonville - but also has some 3-4 experience as a former coordinator under Romeo Crennel.

Then again, a major sticking point for Bills fans over the past three years - and during the 2012 season in particular - was the vanilla scheme installed by former coordinator Dave Wannstedt, who preferred a very basic, very conservative approach to playing defense, blitzing infrequently and keeping exotic looks to a minimum. Tucker, regardless of the scheme, has been labeled in that light by Jaguars fans, and there are plenty more excellent coaches that prefer a more conservative look (Lovie Smith among them). Pettine, like his mentor Ryan, is known as an aggressive coach that throws unusual blitzes and coverages into the mix.

For the purposes of this debate, drop Pettine and Tucker from your minds and focus instead on the larger question: is scheme or style more important to you as the Bills begin their search for a defensive coordinator?