Originally Posted by mickgreen58
A couple of months ago, I had a debate with a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs about what he called, “The perceived greatness of Tom Landry”. He was under the impression that Landry’s Flex defense was not at all revolutionary and that many teams were using his innovations long before he “supposedly” came up with the Idea.
While reading a Cowboys book while watching the DNC
, I came across a passage that inspired me to write the article below.
Dextor Clinkscale breaks down the Flex
As 25 year old, I never got the chance to see the Flex defense in all of its glory. When trying to convince fans of other teams of Landry's greatness, I would always argue, "He was a great man, he invented the Flex defense". In truth, I really didn't even know what the Flex defense was.
[View Full Quote]It was something that I had heard about on the news and from many of Landry's ex players. Recently, I was fortunate to come across a passage by the Cowboys Free Safety Dextor Clinkscale in the book "God's Coach", by Skip Bayless breaking down the nuances of the Flex defense. While speaking to Skip Bayless, Charlie Waters had this to say about Clinkscale, who was signed in 1980, "Watch this Clinkscale. He's picked up the Flex faster than anyone I've ever seen". Here is what Clinkscale had to say:
What opponents didn't understand with the Flex was that it was stupidly simple. Growing up as a huge Cowboy fan, I always read how complicated the Flex was, but all it really had was a lot of fancy names and terms. If you just look at the playbook, it was intimidating. It was like taking advanced placement English and having the teacher assign you this 450-page book by some guy named Dickerson or Dickens. You say, "Damn, this big book?" I wasn't well-read (as an honors student at South Carolina State), and neither were the most players who played the Flex. Most only read their press clippings.
But you always hear Summerall and Madden talk about how intricate the Flex was and how Landry was such a scholar and theologian. You (as a rookie) are thinking, "I cant be looking at a coach. He's not draped in blue and white [team colors]. He looks astute. He's a thinker." Then you try to read his playbook, and these things are just tearing up your mind. You try to figure out little things like the technique on [safety's] end-run force, and it becomes a logic game like on an SAT test. It's not like that.
The Flex is probably the simplest defense in the world because unless you're the middle linebacker, you have only one thing to do. You just have one gap to control. Of the front seven, the middle linebacker is the only one with two gaps. The object is to control every gap. There are only so many gaps an offensive line can create for a ball carrier, so by their initial movements, the center and two guards tell the middle linebacker where to go. They are his keys. The defensive linemen keep the offensive linemen off the middle linebacker so he can make the tackle. The middle linebacker has one gap and one "tango", usually to the weak side of the Flex. He can "tango" weak, meaning an immediate "scrape" by the middle linebacker to get an outside gap.
You see, it was necessary to set two of our four defensive linemen a yard off the line of scrimmage in a frog stance because this allowed them to sit back and see what was going on. They could read the actions of the offensive line, which would tell them which specific area they would control. You didn't control a man, you controlled an area. In the regular 4-3 [four linemen, three linebackers], you tried to control a man, but the Flex took away your natural instincts of pursuit. In effect, you held your ground and waited for the ball to come to you.
In the '60s and '70s this was an absolute brilliant concept. Lee Roy Jordan was a student of the game and very quick and agile at around 200 pounds. Then came Bob Breunig in 1976, who was very smart and had some jets on him so he could get outside. He wasn't big (maybe 220) or strong, but he at least could pull down a ball carrier. When he retired [in 1984] all Landry had was Eugene Lockhart, a poor middle linebacker for the Flex. Eugene doesn't have the speed or agility to get outside, and he isn't a thinker like Breunig and Lee Roy. The Flex might have been more dominant in the '80s if the Cowboys hadn't passed over [Baylor's] Mike Singletary (in the 1981 draft). Gil, as I recall, decided Singletary was too short.
- Bayless, Skip. "God's Coach (1990)"
As you can see, Landry contributed greatly to helping defensive coordinators and their on-field soldiers adopt the think first, react later philosophy. As opposed to what defensive football theories in the past were predicated on, "React first, think later".
when it comes to being interesting and refreshing, let me say that this thread is the anti-"lets trade George!!!!"
good read, thanks!