Bills head coach Chan Gailey's first order of business is putting together a coaching staff as he begins preparations for the 2010 season in his first year as Buffalo's sideline boss. It's clear he has a concrete plan with respect to the offensive approach his team will take come September, but the defensive scheme is still up for debate.
Gailey explained that no definitive decision on the defensive scheme will be made until a defensive coordinator is hired.
"That will be a discussion between myself and potential defensive coordinators in terms of the direction we want to go," Gailey told Buffalobills.com. "I feel like there is some discussion out there where we'd like to explore all avenues."
As head coach in Dallas, Gailey ran a 4-3 front defensively and did the same in his six years as head coach at Georgia Tech. But Buffalo's head coach is not as committed to the 4-3 as he has been in the past.
"I have an idea of the direction we'd like to go, but I know one thing, I'm much more open to the 3-4 than I used to be because I know what a pain it is to go against it every week."
Gailey personally witnessed the success of the 3-4 front from his coaching days in Pittsburgh when the Steelers defense was perennially at the top of the league employing that system. But saying and implementing such schemes is easier said than done, especially when you're inheriting a roster that has played a 4-3 front for the better part of the last nine seasons.
That doesn't mean that the players on Buffalo's roster aren't capable of playing in a 3-4 system. Bills defensive tackle Marcus Stroud has played in 4-3 system his entire professional career, but would not reject a 3-4 scheme.
"That doesn't matter to me either way," said Stroud. "I feel like as long as I can be healthy, I feel like I can do well in either system. If I have to move to nose tackle, then I'll do it."
Still the fact remains that team scouts do determine whether players are fits for their team based partly on scheme when putting together the club's draft board. It's why Gailey, in addition to addressing the scheme approach with his new defensive coordinator, will also consult Nix on how realistic it is to move to a 3-4 system based on the talent available in this year's draft class.
"I want to talk with Buddy about drafting," Gailey said. "How can you draft for the certain positions if you go to 4-3 or 3-4. You have to talk about all of that to see the direction that you want to go."
Another possibility is a middle ground where some 3-4 defensive principles are incorporated into a 4-3 system.
"There are some 4-3 coordinators that can adjust (the scheme) to where it looks like a 3-4 at times and is more of a hybrid type deal that you can use," Gailey said.
That could prove to be a more realistic option in light of the defensive personnel already on the roster.
At this point Gailey is staying open-minded as he appears willing to take input from his future defensive coordinator, GM Buddy Nix on how effectively additional talent could be acquired to fit a scheme, while also following his model of tailoring a system to the players he has at his disposal.
"Right now we're going to look at other options," Gailey said. "I don't want to sit here and say that we're going to do this and that today."