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Thread: defenses put in zone by LeBeau, Capers

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    Default defenses put in zone by LeBeau, Capers

    Super defenses put in zone by LeBeau, Capers
    By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer

    FORT WORTH, Texas - When Bill Cowher was putting together his first coaching staff for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1992, two of the most important hires he made were of a little-known assistant coach for the New Orleans Saints as his defensive coordinator, and a defensive backs coach that had recently been fired as defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals.

    Dom Capers and Dick LeBeau meshed quickly, working with Cowher and linebackers coach Marvin Lewis to craft a defense that would take the Steelers to a pair of AFC Championship games and one Super Bowl in four seasons before success broke up the combination.

    Capers moved on to become the first head coach of the Carolina Panthers following the 1995 season, with LeBeau replacing him as Pittsburgh's defensive coordinator. Lewis, meanwhile, went to Baltimore to become the defensive coordinator of the Ravens before eventually becoming head coach of the Bengals.

    "All that brainstorming, all that brain power, all those defensive schemes," said Green Bay assistant coach Kevin Greene, who joined the Steelers as a linebacker in 1993. "Just great defensive minds."

    Two of those great defensive minds will meet Sunday when the Steelers play the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.

    Needless to say, there are plenty of similarities between the Steelers' defense run by LeBeau and that of the Packers directed by Capers.

    "This is probably the only Super Bowl in which the players from either team could jump in the defensive huddle and understand the terminology and probably run the defense," said LeBeau, who is in his second stint as defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh.

    "I'm sure the nomenclature is different, but they could figure it out. Certainly, if you gave them two days of practice, either team could run the other's defense."

    That's because everything LeBeau and Capers do with their defenses has is rooted in their days together in Pittsburgh. Capers still has in his possession a handwritten playbook from his Steelers days.

    "I was the guy that had to draw it," said LeBeau, who is credited with designing the popular zone-blitz schemes while with Cincinnati.

    That playbook Capers and LeBeau drew became the bible of so many of the zone-blitz, 3-4 defenses used in the NFL. The zone blitz might have started with the Bengals, but it was perfected by Capers and LeBeau with the Steelers.

    "Everything in football, all the systems, are really a product of evolution," Capers said. "Dick was the first one to do it when he was in Cincinnati. We probably polished it in Pittsburgh. Bill, Marvin and I added some elements to what Dick brought."

    The zone blitz was born out a need to counter the pass-oriented Run 'n Shoot and West Coast offenses that dominated the 1980s and '90s. The defense is used in some fashion by nearly every NFL team.

    The Super Bowl will be a showcase of the defense born from the brainstorming that began in Pittsburgh in 1992.

    Just four Super Bowls have pitted the league's two stingiest defenses - in terms of points allowed - and Sunday will be the first such meeting since 1982. The Steelers allowed the fewest points in the league and Green Bay was second.

    "I think history has proven that we had some good ideas," LeBeau said.
    "You only have one life, and you will not get out alive. Make the most of your time and have no regrets." - Me.

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    Default Re: defenses put in zone by LeBeau, Capers

    Packers coaches have plenty of ties to Pittsburgh, Steelers
    Thursday, February 03, 2011
    By Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Former Steelers Dom Capers and defensive back Darren Perry. Both are currently coaches with the Packers.

    IRVING, Texas -- They wear green and gold now but almost half of the Green Bay Packers' coaching staff has black-and-gold roots.

    Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy, a Greenfield native, has assembled a staff with a distinct Western Pennsylvania flavor. Three of his assistants were born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. Two others played for the Steelers and one coached for them.

    The Green Bay staff with local ties:

    • Tom Clements, from McKees Rocks and Bishop Canevin High School, coaches the quarterbacks.

    • Ben McAdoo, from Homer Center High School and IUP, coaches the tight ends

    • Scott McCurley, from Mohawk High School and Pitt, is a defensive quality control assistant.

    • Former Steelers linebacker Kevin Greene coaches the outside linebackers.

    • Former Steelers defensive back and coach Darren Perry coaches the safeties.

    • Former Steelers defensive coordinator Dom Capers coaches in the same capacity for the Packers.

    Clements used to attend Steelers games with his dad at Forbes Field and Pitt Stadium. When he was growing up in the 1960s, the Steelers were not a winning NFL franchise. But, by the time Clements was starting at quarterback at Notre Dame in 1972, the Steelers were on the rise.

    The last Steelers game Clements attended as a spectator was the 1972 playoff game against the Oakland Raiders at Three Rivers Stadium.

    "That was the Immaculate Reception game," Clements said. "I was in the end zone. Franco was running right at me. I didn't see him catch it. I just saw the collision, and, all of a sudden, you saw him running. No one knew what happened.

    "I always enjoyed watching them play. In the '70s, they were my team."

    McCurley, who played linebacker at Pitt from 1999-2002, was watching Super Bowl XL -- Steelers vs. Seattle in Detroit -- at a friend's home in Pittsburgh while he was fielding phone calls from the Packers about joining their coaching staff.

    "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a huge fan," said McCurley, who holds the distinction of making the last interception and last field-goal block in Pitt Stadium.

    "The Steelers were a big part of me when I was growing up. My whole family is still Steelers fans. I can't say I wasn't rooting for the Steelers to win that one. I'm a proud Western Pa. guy. It will always be a part of me."

    McAdoo, of Homer City and IUP, is a former graduate assistant coach at Pitt. He got his start in pro football when Pittsburgh native, IUP graduate and former Steelers defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, then the coach for the New Orleans Saints, hired him as a quality control assistant.

    McAdoo grew up rooting for the Steelers, too.

    "Football is important back where I grew up," McAdoo said. "It's instilled in you at a very young age. Being able to compete and enjoy the game and learn about the game, it's something I feel privileged and honored to have experienced."

    Greene and Perry did not grow up around Pittsburgh, but they learned about the club's tradition during their playing careers. Perry played for the Steelers from 1992-98 and coached the Steelers' defensive backs from 2003-06 under Bill Cowher.

    Greene played for the Steelers from 1993-95, and, along with Perry, helped the Steelers reach Super Bowl XXX against the Dallas Cowboys. Super Bowl XXX is the only Super Bowl the Steelers have lost.

    "We don't want to be the only Steelers team to lose a Super Bowl," Perry said. "We have to find a way to win this thing on Sunday."

    Added Greene: "I have a lot of bad memories [from Super Bowl XXX]. I'm hoping our victory on Sunday will erase some of those lingering issues I have of this game."
    "You only have one life, and you will not get out alive. Make the most of your time and have no regrets." - Me.

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    Default Re: defenses put in zone by LeBeau, Capers

    Packers', Steelers' defenses evolve under Capers, Lebeau
    Friday, February 04, 2011
    By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    ARLINGTON, Texas -- Kevin Greene wasn't on the other side in 1993, was not where he is now, teaching linebackers how to pressure and sack quarterbacks in much the same manner he did for 15 seasons in the NFL.

    But he kind of wishes he had been. At the very least, part of him wishes he could have sat in on some of the meetings of the Steelers defensive coaches in '93.

    In that room, where game plans were formed and schemes devised, were four men who would sculpt a defense that would dominate the NFL for large portions of the next 18 seasons and become a blueprint for other teams to emulate. At the head of the table was Bill Cowher, the head coach.

    Next to him was Dom Capers, his defensive coordinator and the first person Cowher hired when he replaced Chuck Noll as head coach in 1992. Also seated at the table were Dick LeBeau, the secondary coach; and Marvin Lewis, who was linebackers coach. All three eventually would go on to become head coaches in the NFL.

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    "A fun group," Cowher said. "All four of us were in a room, starting to put this thing together."

    "We had a great group back then," Capers said.

    "They were good meetings right from the start," Lewis said.

    At the center of the defensive development was Capers, a former secondary coach for the New Orleans Saints who was brought in to run the defense because Cowher liked the way he had devised coverages to stop Jerry Rice, Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers. Also involved in the construction of the defense was LeBeau, a former defensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals who began using something called a zone blitz in the 1980s -- a scheme that would eventually revolutionize the NFL two decades later.

    "It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall during that time," Greene said. "It was pretty neat, a lot of great minds coming together."

    When they started, Capers and LeBeau stayed in the office until 11 p.m. almost every night for three months and crafted the most intricate details of their defense. Cowher wanted to install the 4-3 defense, an alignment the Steelers used during their Steel Curtain halcyon days of the 1970s, even though he had used the 3-4 defense when he was defensive coordinator in Kansas City. But Capers wanted to use the 3-4, the defense he helped run with the Saints. To compromise, elements of both defenses were installed in the playbook.

    "I felt more comfortable in that," Capers said. "It was a fun experience. We started from scratch. Dick can tell you this -- we ended up writing a 900-page playbook."

    Said Lewis, who would go on to become head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, "I don't remember that drastic of a schematic difference, but I do know we had an awful big defensive playbook in '92."

    Nearly 20 years later, similar defensive playbooks might be found in both locker rooms Sunday at Cowboys Stadium for Super Bowl XLV. Capers and Le-Beau, friends and former roommates, are coordinators of the two stingiest defenses in the NFL and have brought the same defensive schemes and philosophies they crafted two decades earlier to the grandest of football stages -- Capers with the Green Bay Packers, LeBeau with the Steelers.

    It might be difficult to tell them apart. Each has all the ingredients to successfully run a 3-4 alignment -- a hefty nose tackle who can't be moved, a disruptive outside linebacker who can rush the passer and a big-play defensive back who is harder to locate than "Where's Waldo?"

    "This is probably the only Super Bowl ever that the players from either team could jump in the defensive huddle and understand the terminology and probably run the defense," LeBeau said. "I'm sure the nomenclature is different, but they could figure it out."

    It has been 16 years since Capers and LeBeau were on the same staff with the Steelers, a working relationship that ended when Capers left after the 1994 season to become head coach of the expansion Carolina Panthers. Since then, LeBeau has appeared in three Super Bowls, winning two, and taken the 3-4 defense and his zone-blitz schemes to dizzying heights.

    Capers, who is 60, 12 years younger than LeBeau, is making his first Super Bowl appearance. They will reunite Sunday, each trying to outwit the other with a defense that has their fingerprints all over each of their schemes.

    "I think it's great," said former Steelers safety Darren Perry, who was a rookie in 1992 and now coaches the Packers secondary. "Dom and Dick, you're not going to find two football minds of that caliber with the way those guys prepare. To be here, to have these systems on display, I think, is great for football."

    And it is testament to the staying power, and evolution, of a defense that remains the most difficult to solve in the NFL.

    Rush and cover
    How good is the defense Capers installed and LeBeau elevated?

    Since employing the 3-4 defense, the Steelers have led the NFL in total defense four times, including 2008, and finished among the top three five other times.

    When Capers left after the 1994 season to go to Carolina, LeBeau took the defense to even greater heights, especially when he returned to start his second stint with the Steelers in 2004. The Steelers ranked No. 1 in total defense in three of the next five years.

    This year, they ranked No. 2 overall, but they led the NFL in fewest points (232), sacks (48) and rushing defense, allowing just 1,004 yards -- third fewest since the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. It was also the lowest in franchise history, even lower than teams that played a 12-game schedule.

    "When you look at what he's done and what that defense has done, they've been the standard-bearer, really, of defense," Capers said. "If you look at him over the last 18, 19 years and probably put their collective stats together, I don't think anybody can compare with him."

    One of the primary benefits of the 3-4 defense is that pressure can be generated on the quarterback from a number of different positions, a strategy the Packers try to employ with two players -- outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who was second in the NFC with 13 1/2 sacks in the regular season and has 3 1/2 more in the postseason; and cornerback Charles Woodson, who is used more like a safety or linebacker in most of their schemes.

    Matthews, though, is the key. Teams that use the 3-4 have to have outside linebackers who can sack the quarterback and the Steelers have had a litany of those players: Greene, Greg Lloyd, Chad Brown, Jason Gildon, Joey Porter. They have two more now in James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, the most productive -- not to mention disruptive -- tandem they have fielded.

    "There's no question the outside linebackers have to be productive players," Cowher said. "They have to rush the quarterback and the corners have to cover. That becomes the backbone of how good you can become."

    The Steelers have become so good at it that many teams have switched to the 3-4 defense. And that has put a premium on the hybrid linebacker -- the undersized defensive end in college who can be converted into an outside linebacker in the NFL.

    "It's pretty neat, really, the way it has evolved," LeBeau said. "At one time, there weren't very many people doing it. Now you can't look at any team in the league where somebody isn't going to run some kind of zone blitz. So the more people we have working on it, the more innovations that they can add to it. It may or may not fit your personnel, but I see it expanding, not contracting. I see more and more people doing it. I think that's kind of neat."

    Packers' evolution
    Packers head coach Mike McCarthy grew up in Greenfield during the 4-3 Steel Curtain's heyday. He used a 4-3 alignment he inherited for his first three seasons in Green Bay. But, after the Packers finished 6-10 and gave up 380 points in 2008, he brought in Capers to convert his defense to the 3-4.

    To help with the transition, Greene, one of the key components in Capers' defense with the Steelers, was brought in to coach the outside linebackers. Perry, another Steelers defender from 1992-98, was hired to coach the secondary.

    Then the Packers drafted Steeler-like players to build Capers' defense. The Packers took 340-pound nose tackle B.J. Raji, a Joel Steed clone, in the first round of the 2009 draft. In the second round, they drafted Matthews, a Greene clone with his chiseled arms and wild, blond hair.

    "It has evolved since then," Greene said the other day, sitting in the stands at Cowboys Stadium at Media Day and remembering back to his first season with the Steelers in 1993. "I wouldn't say we had a limited number of pressures -- we pressured people -- but I think one of the main aspects now is that the coverage responsibility on outside backers in the 3-4 has intensified. You really need to be intelligent to be in this kind of defense. It has evolved as far as the reads you need to be aware of."

    After a start in which they gave up an average of 335 yards per game, the Packers finished No. 2 in total defense and rush defense and No. 3 in pass defense in the NFL last season. This year, they were No. 5 overall but led the NFC in fewest points (240), interceptions (24) and sacks (47).

    The Packers, though, use their base 3-4 defense only 25 percent of the time. Most times, they morph into some type of nickel defense that allows Woodson, 34, to play near the line of scrimmage, in much the same manner Capers used Carnell Lake and LeBeau employs Troy Polamalu.

    "It's trying to put your personnel in the best situations, and Charles Woodson is a guy you can do a number of things with," Perry said. "He's good near the line of scrimmage, he's an effective blitzer ... it comes down to trying to get your best 11 on the field.

    "That's where we differ from Pittsburgh. Their best 11 may not be in the nickel, and so you got a little different combination. One thing, when you go to subpackages, it allows you to have more variations of your pressures. You have more defenses and we like that aspect of it. We've kind of gravitated toward that."

    Dinner date
    Capers was sitting in the stands at Cowboys Stadium at Media Day, wearing a green Packers jacket and fielding questions about his defense and relationship with LeBeau.

    He said they don't talk much during the regular season, but have a standing date to have dinner every year at the NFL Scouting Combine, which is two weeks after the Super Bowl. This year, the dinner conversation should be riveting.

    "I'm sure we both follow each other's teams in terms of statistics because we've been very close and competing with each other the whole year statistically," Capers said. "Any chance that I get to look at a Pittsburgh defense, I always like to look at the Pittsburgh defense. I think probably they do the same thing with ours."

    Why not? You can't tell 'em apart.

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    Are these morons getting dumber or just louder-Mayor Quimby

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