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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Wade Phillips' defense not a great fit for Bucs



The Bucs are expected to discuss their open head-coaching post this week with former Cowboys coach and current Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

It's not shocking that Tampa Bay would take an interest in Phillips given his experience as a head coach -- something the Bucs are looking for -- and his expertise on defense.

But it's his defensive philosophy that makes this an odd match. Phillips' system, which has helped overhaul Houston's defense, is a 3-4 defense that relies on big outside (stand-up) linebackers rushing off the edges. It can work well in the right situations, but Tampa Bay does not seem the ideal place to run it.

The Bucs' acquired and drafted their defensive personnel to run a 4-3, Tampa 2-style system -- the same one the Bucs have run since the late 1990s under Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin. Recently-fired head coach Raheem Morris added numerous elements and coverages to the defense after taking over in 2009, but the scheme still is based on the same concepts up front: A one-gap, penetrating attack with four down linemen.

Can you envision Adrian Clayborn playing as a stand-up outside linebacker in a 3-4, at times dropping into coverage? Would Gerald McCoy succeed as a 3-4 defensive end when most in the NFL views him as a one-gap penetrator? These are the kinds of questions the Bucs would face when considering Phillips.

In Phillips' recent coaching stops -- in San Diego, Dallas and Houston -- he's run 3-4 defenses. It should also be pointed out that each of those defenses, including this year's with the Texans, have been pretty solid. Phillips has a well-earned reputation as someone who can get the best out of defenses, and maybe that would be true in Tampa Bay, too. And there's nothing that says the Bucs can't change their scheme and run a 3-4, something that Houston did after hiring Phillips before this season. There's also no requirement that the Bucs change to a 3-4 just because they hire Phillips, though it seems unlikely they would not.

Phillips is certainly qualified with his decades of coaching experience at both the pro and college level. But just looking at this hypothetically, it's right to wonder whether his defense would be the right fit for the Buccaneers.

We'll soon find out how much that affects his chances of landing this job.

[Last modified: Monday, January 9, 2012 10:03am]


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