Q: What is it about the 3-4 defense that has been near and dear to you throughout your coaching on that side of the ball?
BB: At the Browns we played a 4-3.
Q: Other than the Browns, what is it about the 3-4?
BB: We won two Super Bowls playing a 4-3. In '01 and [‘04]. Second half of the '01 season, we played 4-3 after Bryan Cox and [Ted] Johnson got hurt.
Q: 3-4 has been historically presumed to be your preferred defense.
BB: In all honesty, most people thought we played a 4-3 at the Giants. Lawrence Taylor did a lot more rushing than he did pass dropping. He was probably 90 percent of the time, 80 to 90 percent of the time he was the rusher in the defense. Now not every play was a pass, but certainly in passing situations and on a lot of pass plays, he was the designated fourth rusher which really put us in what amounts to a 4-3. I think honestly that's something that's a media fabrication. There are a lot of different alignments out there, you see 4-3 teams use odd spacing, you see 3-4 teams use even spacing. You have same… look, you have 11 players. You can put them in various positions. Whether you want to put it in the pregame depth chart as one thing or another I think is a little bit overrated. You play different fronts, you play different spacings and you teach the techniques of your defense and that is what is consistent. The techniques that are taught in the different defensive systems, whichever ones you want to talk about, are consistent within those systems. And those teams go from a three-man line to a four-man line or a four-man line to a odd spacing line or overs-to-unders or unders-to-overs or over-wides or whatever you want to call it. They'll continue to play the same fundamental techniques that they've been teaching for the entire year, for the most part. I think that's what teaching defensive fundamental football is about. It's about fundamentals. Wherever you put them, you have to put other people in complementary places however you decide to do that. It's pretty straightforward really. You can't have them all over here and none over there. You have to balance it off at some point. It's more the teaching and techniques and the fundamentals that you teach your defensive players more than it is the 3-4, 4-3 lineup that is so important to put on the flip card.
Q: Would it be more accurate to look at it as a two-gap versus a one-gap then?
BB: It's all the fundamentals and sure, that's part of it. There are techniques in terms of how to play your front, how to defend the number of gaps and the ways that the offense can attack you, particularly in the running game. So how you want to do that? In a normal set you have eight gaps - seven blockers and eight gaps - so how do you want to defend that? Do you want to defend it with seven people or do you want to defend it with eight? That's really what it comes down to. And every time you spread a guy then the defense spreads a guy, so eight becomes seven. Then seven becomes six. Depending on how many guys are detached from the formation, then that's how many gaps you have. You decide defensively how you want to defend them in the running game. Do you want to defend them with gap control? Do you want to two-gap? Do you want to try to overload the box with extra guys and play eight against seven or seven against six? Those are all the choices you make. With every decision, there's going to be an upside, there's going to be a downside. There will be advantages to playing certain things, there will be disadvantages to playing [them]. So every system has multiple coverages, multiple fronts to adjust to, different problems that the offense presents.
Q: If 3-4 and 4-3 is overrated like you said, is the important thing to look for players that have skills that can match up against a variety of things that you'll see throughout the season?
BB: Again I think there's certainly a lot to be said for flexibility. There's also a lot to be said for playing well at one position. I think if a player plays one position very well, there's a lot of value to that. If a player plays multiple positions at a good level, maybe not quite as good as a guy who plays one position at a little bit of a higher level, that versatility is worth a lot as well. How do you value those? I don't know. I think you have to have both. We've had plenty of good players who really just did one thing - Ted Washington, Steve Neal, guys like that. They never did anything but play one position for a long time… well Ted was only here a year, but throughout his career or throughout the time he was here, he did one thing [and] he did it pretty well. Great. Other guys, the Mike Vrabels of the world, the Rodney Harrisons, guys like that, Troy Brown, those guys did a lot of things. They did them pretty well too. A football team is comprised of a lot of parts, certainly a lot of moving parts. You need a lot of different things through the course of a season, through the course of a game. Some guys provide one thing, other guys provide others things. In the end you just have to comprise your team so you can put the best group together that you can. That's the only way I can explain it.