Joe Banner, the 3-4 versus the 4-3 and agent Jimmy Sexton

Jimmy Sexton Hire My Clients 595

One of the scariest things for Browns fans in the transition from Mike Holmgren to Joe Banner was Banner’s decision to switch defenses. It isn’t that Cleveland Browns fans have that much of a preference, other than they have a preference against switching schemes all the time. You know, continuity and all that? The Browns were a 3-4 defense with Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini before switching to the 4-3 for Pat Shurmur’s two-year tenure under Mike Holmgren. That defense was young and thought to be on the rise when Joe Banner fired Shurmur, Dick Jauron and proclaimed to Terry Pluto that the Browns needed to run the 3-4. Now that the Browns have fired Rob Chudzinski and are again searching for a new coach, the rumor mill is churning out Jim Schwartz’ name. He’s a 4-3 guy.

So, let’s go back in time and look at what Joe Banner has said about both defenses on the record. First, Banner’s interview with Terry Pluto last year, Banner talked about the 3-4 defense.

Q: Is that why you switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense?

A: Most good teams play an attacking 3-4 defense. Every offensive coach we talked to in the off-season said the attacking 3-4 defense was the hardest to face, so that’s what we need to play.

Maybe I’m being a little too strict with reading something that Joe Banner said in a long interview, but the word “need” is kind of strong. Joe Banner is a pretty savvy and deliberate guy, so it’s really hard not to look at his word choice and find it to be a pretty definitive statement.

Now that the Browns are back searching though, the quotes are different. When Banner spoke to Vic Carucci and Nathan Zegura immediately following the Haslam/Banner press conference, he was saying something very different.

“I don’t want to dictate anything to the head coach,” Banner said. “Obviously, there are some benefits to continuing something as basic as you playing a 3-4 or 4-3. But if we found somebody we thought was going to be a great head coach and we had to look at that, it wouldn’t rule the coach out.

“But that’s not to deny it would be simpler if we perpetuate the system. Most of those players, by the way, we think can play effectively in either scheme. But we really just need to find the right coach and let him define those things.”

Banner went on to say that they think their personnel — including free agent acquisitions — are capable of playing in either system. While I tend to agree and can see benefits of playing either system as long as either one is run and staffed well, I still find the “about-face” a little bit strange.

Add in the knowledge that agent Jimmy Sexton’s client roster includes Jim Schwartz, Josh McDaniels, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, and the story starts to smell all too familiar1. Back when the “Bob-LaMonte-owns-the-Browns” storyline was playing out with Mike Holmgren and his hiring of Pat Shurmur, I was one of the ones downplaying it because, it wasn’t like Pat Shurmur wasn’t an offensive coordinator in the league. From a technical standpoint, that makes a coach viable for the promotion to head coach or at least justifies a team kicking the tires on a guy.

Ultimately, it was a LaMonte guy in Shurmur. LaMonte represented Holmgren, Tom Heckert, Shurmur, Jauron, Brad Childress, Nolan Cromwell, Bryan Wiedmeier and Gil Haskell. Maybe more, but that’s all I could find/remember.

I still don’t want to make that big a deal of it. Just because the Browns hired Bob LaMonte’s guy Pat Shurmur doesn’t mean that hiring a Bob LaMonte client was a bad idea. The Browns could have hired LaMonte clients including Jon Gruden, John Fox, Mike Sherman or Andy Reid with unknown and different results. The NFL agent game is a pretty tight business anyway. These guys stay within their “trees” pretty religiously and it makes sense that they’d hire agents in packs as well, but on the heels of worrying about these being the “same old Browns,” it’s not necessarily a good look for the Browns to appear at the altar of a different agent.

That’s just the way the news cycle goes when there aren’t games for the Browns to win. And make no mistake, regardless of anything, should the Browns start to finally win it won’t matter who is negotiating whose deals or what defensive alignment the Browns proclaim to be.

Just wanted to leave you with one more bomb though. Another Jimmy Sexton client?



  1. Sexton is also Trent Richardson’s agent. []

  • Vindictive_Pat

    The Tim Tebow-Josh McDaniels connection is fun, but if I had to guess on the reality of Tebow coming to play for McDaniels if he were to win the head coaching job in Cleveland, would be about a 5% likelihood if not less. Tebow sat out the entire 2013 season and you’d think that if McDaniels really wanted him, Belichick would have brought him in. The Patriots are not averse to bringing in controversial players and they would have known that nobody is going to be clamoring for Tim Tebow to start over Tom Brady, so the noise that Tebow brings wasn’t a factor in that decision. My guess is that McDaniels had seen enough.

  • Steve_Not_Chad


  • Mike

    Pretty sure Tebow was there at the start of camp, he just didn’t make the final cut.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Excellent and that backs up my point even more, if true. McDaniels could have kept him if he had looked to be a fit.

  • Du

    Belichick did bring Tebow in this season…but then released him at end of August.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Interesting set of quotes. It sounds like they still prefer a 3-4, though they (rightfully) think they have the personnel to play a 4-3 if they wanted. They also may have seen this year the flaws in the 3-4 which is that while it’s hard to play against, once you do figure out the coverage schemes etc. a team is playing it’s possible for an offense to dissect, as happened so often to the Browns this year late in games. (Check out the Y/P against by quarter, really astounding.)

    Personally, I like the 3-4 and think that a better O would keep the D off the field more and give less plays for the opposing team to figure out the D scheme for that game. We just need our own coaches to have a second approach for if teams figure it out late in games especially against better teams.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Thx… replied to Mike’s comment just a tad before this one registered.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Good point. I think we also should tread lightly when talking about whether a coach really runs a 4-3 or a 3-4… many defensive coordinators really do change their look throughout the game. Seattle’s Dan Quinn, for example, technically runs a 4-3 defense, but it often looks more like a 3-4 with one lighter DE responsible for dropping into coverage at times and acting more like a 3-4 OLB while the other DE weighs around 300 lbs and acts more like a 3-4 DE.

  • Big Z

    I’ve grown tired of this.

  • Big Z

    They can play a 5-2 defense if they like. It won’t matter until they find a legit QB.

  • Wow

    Why can’t you just build the damn defense around the talent you have?

  • Harv 21

    These Banner quotes relate, I think, more toward his wooing of potential coaching candidates than his deep thoghts about defensive schemes. As in “Hey – we’re not control freak monsters like everyone says! Just cuz we fired Chud after one season doesn’t mean we’re unreasonable!” Maybe (maybe) he’s trying to signal the coaching fraternity that he’s tacking back toward a more mainstream system where the HC has some say, that they shouldn’t think Cleveland is just a career banana peel, a place to go only if you desperately want that “NFL Head Coach” line on your resume.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Craig Robertson proved that our 3-4 defense is vulnerable. (I’m reaching here…but it’s something.)

  • Wow

    Very true. I just meant instead of constantly changing systems.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Tebow also didn’t do one thing in his time with the Patriots which is why he was shown the door. Frankly I couldn’t understand why he was ever brought in until reading this story by Craig. Have fun Browns fans when McDaniels is your new head coach.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Great point about the offenses helping their defenses.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Very true modern defenses are often hybrids the traditional 4-3/3-4 is just the base from which they play. Frankly as I look at the current defense considering the flaws namely secondary and linebacking it really shouldn’t be a big deal in running either. Not until they significantly upgrade the personnel. I personally favor reactive, athletic defensive players who can play regardless of the system. I don’t favor drafting a particular player because he has a specific skill set which suits one particular defensive style. But that’s just me.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    They don’t have any significant talent as a whole so they should be able to do just about anything at this point. As I said earlier until they improve the secondary and the linebacking all they have is the defensive line. Personally I feel like they have more then enough DL and it’s easier to get them to adjust to whatever defensive scheme then it is say the LBs.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Or he’s floating more BS I mean spraying PR to mask the mess he’s helped create. I mean this isn’t the same old Cleveland Browns right?

  • MrCleaveland

    I hate this, hate this, hate this.

    Are 3-4 defensive coordinators such zombies that they couldn’t possibly run a 4-3? And vice versa?

    This is such garbage. Coaches have to coach who they have. So you look at the players you have and then you design a defensive scheme that makes the best use of their skills and tries to hide their shortcomings. You don’t start ripping up the roster again to fit your precious scheme. Sheesh.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Agreed, and the Browns last year were especially like this, if not even more extreme. Plenty of times the Browns had 1-2 down linemen.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    “You don’t start ripping up the roster again to fit your precious scheme,” in Cleveland this is exactly what you do. More importantly do the people who hire these coaches really understand the players they have on their own roster? If you listen to Banner he makes you think they do but here’s the problem: isn’t he the CEO, where’s the GM or whatever title Mike Lombardi owns?

    There are just so many things wrong with the structure or at least the way they are doing things that it’s no wonder the actual on field product is so bad. But hey they got rid of the weakest link, the guy who clearly was the head of all the mistakes, Rob Chudsinski so now they can get back to WINNING!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Yea that would be an extreme for me but flexibility in personnel skills would seem only to be natural. If I was building a team the SEC would be my best friend especially when it comes to defense.

  • BorisBulldog

    Sheard, Mingo and if D Qwell stays are better suited to the 43.
    Plus the Browns have a good wealth of 2 and 3 Technique DT’s to make the 4 man work.