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One such scheme is the 3-4 or often called "Okie" defense in the early 1970s. In the late-1950s
The Miami's famed "53 defense", which was a 3-4 defense that was very prevalent in their Dolphins Championship runs in 1972 and 1973, oddly, though, for the Dolphins it wasn't their base defense, it was more of a hybrid
The year the 3-4 scheme, as a base defense broke out, was 1974 and often it is Bum Phillips' Oilers that were given much of the credit, especially after they traded John Matuszak to the Kansas City Chiefs for defensive tackle Curly Culp, who fit Phillip's ideal middle guard role perfectly.
Prior to the trade, however, the Oilers were not a pure 3-4 teams, using both a 4-man and 3-man lines against
In 1973, however, New England Patriots team highlights and films show that defensive coach (coordinator) Charlie Sumner was already using the 3-man scheme under freshman NFL coach Chuck Fairbanks. Nineteen seventy-two and 1973 may be the worst back-to-back run defenses in the history of the NFL with the Patriots giving up about 200 yards a game at an average of just over five yards a carry. Clearly, Fairbanks and Sumner had to so something.
They had wanted to switch to the 3-4 in 1973, but were unable to secure a key player they thought they needed to play the defense. Rich "Tombstone" Jackson had just finished an injury-riddled 1972 season with the Cleveland Browns and wanted to get into coaches as he was getting older and had been late (27 years old) in entering the NFL. Fairbanks wanted Jackson to play nose tackle in the 3-4, even though he
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In 1974 Sumner and Fairbanks made the change to a 3-4 base defense in time for week one of the 1974 season.
In the 1974 NFL Draft, the Pats selected Steve Nelson and Sam Hunt, who ideally filled the inside linebacker positions in the new scheme.
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In 1979, Sumner moved to the Raiders as the defensive coordinator, though the Raiders didn't use that title and where he employed a very similar scheme with the Raiders. Though the Raiders had started their 3-4 in 1976 when injuries along the defensive line caused their switch to the 3-4. And in 1977 they added a new wrinkle as they'd bring in the designated
Upon Sumner's passing today, the story of Sumner coaching linebacker Jack Squirek to step in for Matt Millen and cover
For example, in 1983 the starting defensive line was Howie Long at left defensive end, Reggie Kinlaw at nose tackle, at right end Lyle Alzado, with Ted Hendricks at left outside linebacker, Matt Millen, usually a strong and Jeff Nelson at weak inside linebacker and Rod Martin at right outside linebacker.
However, in Sumner's "Pirate" defense, James Davis would
The popularization of the 3-4 defense in the NFL from the early 1970s through the present likely falls on several coaches' resumes, as it rightly should, but here is one who hopefully will get his fair share of credit for that fascinating era of transition–Charlie Sumner.