There is a small glimmer of hope among us that perhaps, in at least one universe of the multiverse, Tony Dungy agrees to become the next Detroit Lions head coach.
With him comes the so-called Tampa-2 defense that he ran during his wildly successful run as head coach of two organizations that were kind of crummy until he came along. Some have dismissed this defense as outdated and other have suggested the Lions could not run it even if they wanted to, and would prefer a different defense.
I would argue that not only could we run a Tampa 2, but that we could find players who fit a T2 defense much more inexpensive than those who fit other systems. Why? Moneyball principles! The more teams move away from a T2, the less valued T2 skills are, leaving us with a greater opportunity to acquire the right players at a lower cost.
What do you need to run a Tampa 2 defense?
1. A front four that can create pressure without blitzing help. The Lions are likely going to rely on this whether we're in a T2 or not, as most blitz-happy defenses are 3-4 or 3-4 hybrids. We've invested a lot in our DL (3 first round picks) and aren't about to throw those investments away to pursue something else.
2. A dominant, quick middle linebacker who can cover well. That would require replacing Tulloch with someone else. Perhaps Levy, who has MLB experience, or perhaps someone taken high in the draft. I am not well-versed in what our LBs do well, honestly. It seems we'd need to add something here to replace either Tulloch or Levy. I would not be surprised to see two new starters (MLB and OLB) if we switched to this scheme.
3. Safeties that can cover well in zone and one that can kill people. Each safety gets half the field and is in zone coverage. His job is to keep things in front of him and deck the hell out of anyone with the ball. Quin seems competent. Carey, as our nickle guy, might actually be perfectly suited for this role. Delmas could play the Hammer (SS) and actually utilize his one skill (destroying receivers and/or Lions who get in his path). We're likely to add another safety anyway, so getting one with more coverage than run hammer wouldn't be a stretch.
4. An ability to get ahead. The Lions are often ahead in games. The T2 defense limits big plays. The Lions lost a lot of games by giving up 1 or 2 big plays. This defense would put us in a smart prevent-like defense all the time, which makes a transition to end-game defense a slight tweak rather than a large change in philosophy.
5. Smart defenders. LBs have to be able to read and react to the play. The MLB has to identify pass or run and cannot overpursue or we're screwed. This is the key to the defense. We have to have a star MLB with speed and brains. This is worth a 1st round pick in this defense.
6. Corners have to be good tacklers but not necessarily great in 1v1 coverage. We don't have any shutdown corners anyway. This defense hides that flaw. Can they tackle? They're NFL players. They better damn well be able to stick to fundamentals and bring guys down quickly.
7. Solid tackling LBs, as RBs will find themselves staring one down on run plays.
I am not advocating using the defense or not. I just want to point out that a Tony Dungy would be worth it, even if he brings this defense, as it seems we could transition to it with a few personnel changes.