Just in the nick of time for the Super Bowl, I have a blog post for everyone to enjoy!  This is just a last minute look at the teams involved and how it relates to the Cowboys.  I’ve actually been working on this for a few days, and I went back and forth about whether to post it or not, so I guess I’m gonna do it.

(Sorta) fresh from the blogroll comes this posting from the Dallas Morning News, courtesy of writer Bob Sturm.  Something I hadn’t thought about is the fact that both Pittsburgh and Green Bay run a 3-4 defense, which is also Dallas’ base defense.  What I didn’t realize was the number of teams in the NFL that are running it now.  It’s up to 15, or nearly half the league.  When Dallas picked it up a few years ago, it wasn’t nearly as popular if memory serves me right.

Basically, Sturm says that Dallas could benefit from trying to be more like the Packers and Steelers by being more aggressive on defense and being willing to take more chances.  The evidence he presents in support of this cause is pretty telling, and it shows that the defensive secondary contributes very little in the way of sacks, and he chalks it up to the Cowboys’ reluctance to bring safety and corner blitzes.  Before I saw these figures, I guess I hadn’t realized how little the Cowboys use this strategy, especially when compared with other teams.

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, after I read this, I thought it would be interesting to make a comparison among Wade Phillips, Pittsburgh Defensive Coordinator Dick Lebeau, and Green Bay DC Dom Capers, since they all run a 3-4 defense, and since two are in the Super Bowl, while the first was head coach of the Cowboys.

It is a commonly held belief that a coordinator who becomes a head coach will generally not do so well with his side of the ball once he is running the whole show.  Specifically, this seems to occur when the head coach retains the play calling duties for offense or defense.  Well, I decided to look back at the careers of Phillips, LeBeau, and Capers to see if this is really true.  They have all been defensive coordinators and head coaches at some point.  I took a look at the yards per game allowed and points per game allowed while each coach held these two positions and compared their respective performances.  (Note:  I realize that it wasn’t always the case that they kept calling plays after becoming head coach, like Phillips did in his last two years in Dallas, but I still feel it’s worth a look.)

Going in, I expected to see a noticeable difference from each coach being a DC and a head coach.  I was pretty surprised with what I found, though.  (A special shout out to nfl.com for having all the necessary stats going back to 1932)

Since 1981, Wade Phillips has been a head coach or a defensive coordinator in every year except one.  Here are his numbers.

HC:  YPG allowed-316.5 PPG allowed-21.2

DC:  YPG allowed-320.6 PPG allowed-20.6

Dick Lebeau has been a DC or head coach for all but three years since 1984.

HC:  YPG allowed-324.7 PPG allowed-23.4

DC:  YPG allowed-312.9 PPG allowed-21.1

Dom Capers has been a DC or head coach for all but three years since 1992.

HC:  YPG allowed-338.4 PPG allowed-21.7

DC:  YPG allowed-294.3 PPG allowed-17.7

I expected more of a disparity to be present, but with the exception of Dom Capers, there doesn’t seem to be.  Like I said, when each of these men were head coaches, they didn’t necessarily retain play calling duties on defense.  Also, LeBeau’s head coaching sample is smaller than the others.  This all makes me wonder if our collective perception says one thing, while the statistics say something else.  Perhaps these are exceptions.  I can’t really say, but it does seem that each of them has done at least slightly better as defensive coordinators, and in Capers’ case, much better.

It should be an interesting game tonight.

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