Even before Brad Childress was hired as coach of the Minnesota Vikings, it appeared he had his defensive coordinator targeted, and his decision had nothing to do with a tight or long-standing personal relationship with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin.
Childress, a man who came to his interview prepared, had his reasons for seeking out Tomlin. First, he liked the way Tomlin coached when Childress observed him during summer clinics, and Tomlin also came with recommendations from his players, but Childress also seemed set on instituting the type of defense that the Bucs were running, a scheme that has become known as the Tampa-2.
But it wasn't just Tampa's success with the defense that had Childress convinced it was the right fit in Minnesota. With the Vikings in the NFC North and the Bears winning the division with its own flavor of the Tampa-2 defense in 2005, Childress thought that defense matched with the Vikings' needs.
"I think in this division, I think you're probably better served to play against day in and day out the style that he's going to put on the field," Childress said. "There are a lot of people playing that or a version of that. Not that I don't have a great deal of respect for (Philadelphia defensive coordinator) Jim Johnson or someone who is playing a different style of defense – there are a lot of different ways to win – but I just think for this setting, starting with your team and who you have to play twice a year and who you've got to beat to get out of the division, it probably serves us pretty well here. A different place, maybe a different deal."
Why is it the best defense for an NFC North team?
"Just because of the Bears being the tall dog in this division right now," Childress said. "Lovie's defense is something that you've got to be able to beat. That's one of the best defenses in the National Football League. Tampa Bay is one of the best in the National Football League. You can say, ‘Well, yeah, but that's different personnel,' but the scheme is the same and you're playing against the scheme day in and day out.
"You get to know it forward and backward. Not when he was in Tampa Bay, but since he's here you're going to find out where the bones are buried, so to speak. Where are the weaknesses? What do they hate to see and where are they trying to hide a guy if you're in this formation or that motion, or this really gives them problems. Those things are huge things, kind of getting the ins and outs. I learned a couple of those ah-hah moments with Mike, just having him clinic me with some of the things that go on. I knew (he) was doing it that way, but finally to hear somebody articulate it, as many times as we played against that Tampa Bay defense the last few years, was good. Then I was able to share back the same things – we hated it when you did that, or that really puts us in a bind because of this reason. Those are great discussions to have and it makes you more effective in what you're doing."
Indeed, Tampa Bay finished with the top-ranked defense in the league, according to yardage allowed, and Chicago finished second in 2005.
While Childress himself has labeled it as a Tampa-2 defense, he has also gone on to explain that it is not always a Cover-2 (two deep safeties to protect against the long pass) concept. Often times, one of those safeties will drop closer to the line of scrimmage to lend support in stopping the run.
"The Tampa-2, that's what's fashionable to say, but … I just went back and watched Washington and Tampa, the 120-yard (playoff) game," Childress said. "Without counting, I'll bet you at least half and maybe more than half (the Bucs) had one safety in the middle of the field with the safety down by the middle of the box. It was so far away from Tampa-2 or (Cover) 2 that it's a little bit of a misnomer. You state it that way and everybody thinks it's a two-deep concept. When John Lynch was in his heyday, he was standing more in the box than standing back as a half-safety."
Another aspect Childress wants to clear up about the Tampa-2 is that the defense calls for fast linebackers who can cover sideline to sideline. Mental quickness and football quickness, he says, are as important as times in the 40-yard dash or cone drills. It may not be the correct assumption that Childress is ready to throw away the linebackers the Vikings fielded in 2005.
"Do you need a certain kind of linebacker, you do, but you know what? These guys have never been coached the way they're going to be coached with the keys that they're looking at and the specifics," Childress said. "When Mike (Tomlin) says you don't have any preconceived notions, I assume what you're alluding to is the speed of the linebackers here. You don't really want to make those ascertains until you see these guys on the grass, until you see them play, because there's fast and then there's football fast – how fast can you read and react. If you're a slow-to-process guy, that may be different since you're a 4.3 (speed) linebacker. If you're not processing what you're seeing and reading the keys … we're always talking about playing fast and playing fast and playing fast, but that goes without saying.
"It's playing fast based on what you're seeing and doing the right things and doing it quickly based on what you see."
Through the course of free agency and spring camps, observers will learn more about the Vikings' new defensive philosophies. While it's clear their defense will rely heavily on Tampa's system, it's also clear Childress doesn't want people believing the Vikings will be playing a vanilla Cover-2 all the time.
Multiple Reasons For Vikes Using Tampa-2
Viking Update Top Stories
QB or not QB: A dicey draft questionThe more quarterbacks that go before the Minnesota Vikings make a draft pick, the better given their situation. NFL Network's Mike Mayock addressed the risk and reward of drafting…
Viking Update5:03 AM
Viking Update Mock Draft, Version 2The Minnesota Vikings don’t have a first-round pick, but they will be watching talent come off the board in the first round, including selections by their NFC North rivals.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 9:52 AM
Vikings decision-makers learning the offenseAs the Minnesota Vikings look to improve their offense, the decision-makers are getting more involved on that side of the ball.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 4:39 AM
Holler: Peterson's days as a Viking numberedWe will likely find out this week whether Adrian Peterson is a Minnesota Viking or not and the smart money is pointing toward "no."
Viking UpdateYesterday at 4:16 AM