It would appear that, in the hope of being able to predict success for the San Diego Chargers, everyone is looking for answers on what type of defense Greg Manusky runs. What, exactly, is the former Chargers LB Coach going to do with the current group of players in San Diego?
After the jump, we'll go year-by-year in San Francisco. Starting with 2006, the year before Greg got there, and going through 2010. Superduperboltman will eventually do a breakdown of what he sees on tape as far as Manusky goes, but you guys know me.....I like stats. And so, into a sea of stats we shall dive. Join me!
I'll start by saying this: You can tell a lot about a coach's style by finding out who taught him. Manusky's tutors in the 3-4 defensive scheme? One Wade Phillips, who kept Manusky around when he signed on to be the Defensive Coordinator for the Bolts, and one Mike Nolan, who brought the Denver Broncos from nothing to respectability in about 5 minutes before taking his talents to the sunny beaches of Miami for a ton of money. Not a bad place to start.
Both of the guys above sit on the "aggressive" side of the fence when it comes to 3-4 coaches. They build around strong CBs that don't mind being left on an island with the receiver, then blitz like crazy. Especially with a lead. The unfortunate part of Manusky's tenure in San Francisco is that the offense never really pulled it's weight, and therefore he probably wasn't able to be as aggressive as he'd like. That shouldn't be as big of a frustration in San Diego.
It's no surprise that Manusky was brought in after this atrocious season. Despite Nolan being brought it to be the Head Coach and stabilize the defense, he was not able to dedicate enough of his time to helping that side of the ball. Or they didn't have enough talent. Either way, they were really awful.
Dead last in points allowed, not far from the bottom in yards allowed, and very nearly had less turnovers than the number of games they played during the season. That's not good, if you didn't know.
This was their 3rd year in the 3-4 also, but the talent still wasn't up to snuff. Their secondary, specifically, was a patchwork group consisting of Shawntae Spencer, Walt Harris, Mark Roman and Keith Lewis. This group was about to get a shot in the arm, probably at the behest of both Nolan and Manusky.
Year 1 of Manusky's first shot at DC. Points allowed jumped from 32nd to a respectable 20th, while the yards allowed remained pretty much the same. The run defense also pretty much stayed the same, but the big difference was that the passing defense allowed fewer TDs.
The big reason for the jump in pass defense? The 49ers gifted Nate Clements, the best CB on the free agent market, with an absurd 8-year, $80 million dollar contract. They also replaced one Lewis with another, signing away Michael Lewis from the Eagles, which allowed Roman to move over to his more natural position of FS. Any time you can improve your secondary, it's going to make the passing defense better (Editor's Note: You think so?).
However, with Manny Lawson missing from the stat sheet (I guess he was injured?), the lack of pass-rushers hurt the Niners. Their sack total dropped from 34 to 31, 49er QBs were sacked 55 times(!) and the team won just 5 games. Manusky didn't have a lead to play around with, and didn't have the talent to get to opposing QBs without the blitz. It should be mentioned that this drop in offense happened the year after Norv Turner left San Francisco....
Not a great first season, but not terrible. The secondary shuffle can be credited for the improvement in my eyes, though.
Now we're getting somewhere. Year 2, and Manusky's been there for the free agent period, the draft, and making adjustments from Year 1.
Points allowed goes up slightly, but everything else goes down. Yards allowed goes from 25th to 13th. First downs allowed goes from 23rd to 12th. So how could points allowed get worse, you ask? Well, the offense (which was atrocious in 2007) actually got worse in 2008.
San Francisco QBs were sacked 55 times for a second consecutive year(!), and instead of "prospect Alex Smith" the Niners had to rely on Shaun Hill and J.T. O'Sullivan (each getting 8 starts). A bad offense also meant fewer chances for sacks, both because opposing teams were throwing less and because Manusky had to play it somewhat conservative, and that number went down again from 31 to 30.
With that being said, the 49ers acquired DE Justin Smith and ILB Takeo Spikes and saw fantastic impact from both veteran players. A strong and young defensive line emerged in the form of Isaac Sopoaga, Aubrayo Franklin and the aforementioned Justin Smith. Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson both showed talent when given the chance, with Haralson racking up 8 sacks in just 10 starts.
This feels like a defense that should've been better but was hamstrung by the offense and what was going on with the rest of the team (Nolan was fired half-way through the season and Mike Singletary had a....rough first few weeks).
One more season and more improvement. Year 3 saw the Niners drop from 23rd in point allowed to 4th. They dropped again from 12th in 1st downs allowed down to 6th. They gave up the 2nd least amount of TDs through the air, dropped from 21st in that category the year before.
The good defense that seemed to be lurking in 2008 finally got to show its face in 2009. Sacks jumped from 30 up to 44. Turnovers stayed low (Manusky's four years: 22, 18, 18, 22 TOs), but the rushing defense improved a bunch. In terms of yards given up by rushing attempt, the 49ers were in the top 10 each year Manusky was there and in the top 5 for three of those four seasons.
All of those sacks were spread throughout the team. Here are the guys that had at least 4 on the season: Manny Lawson, Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Parys Haralson, Patrick Willis and Takeo Spides. Six different guys, including both ILBs and a DE. Here's who had 4+ sacks last season for the Chargers: Shaun Phillips, Kevin Burnett, Antonio Garay and Antwan Barnes.....and that group had more sacks as a whole (47) than the Niners in 2009.
The final year. I don't know that Manusky would've been fired, he just probably was done with the turmoil of SF's situation and wanted the chance to come back to SD and coach on a team with an offense. His 2010 defense really wasn't better or worse than the defenses before it.....
Points allowed dropped from the ridiculous 4th to a more reasonable 16th. Again, much of this can be attributed to an awful offense giving other teams pretty terrible field position (for SF, anyway). 1st downs allowed also dropped down from "ridiculous" to "average". Sacks dropped from 44 back down to 36 and were again pretty evenly distributed amongst the LBs and Justin Smith.
The run defense remained fantastic while the passing defense dealt with the change over from veterans that were decreasing in value to mistake-prone rookies (all of the Safeties on this team are 26 or younger).
What the stats tell me: Manusky builds defenses that stop the run first and foremost, but do a pretty pedestrian job at creating turnovers or getting pressure on opposing QBs.
What logic tells me: Tough situation. It's really hard to get good numbers from your defense when you're always starting on the 50 yard line, down by two scores and the offense is never putting together long drives or showing the ability to come back from down two scores.
He's also had to deal with changeover at both Safety spots, where Mark Roman and Michael Lewis were just stopgaps at the end of their careers, and no great pass-rushers to be found. I'll say, with fingers crossed, that Manusky is looking forward to the chance to have Bob Sanders and Eric Weddle back there along with some great talent at CB. Most of all though, he has to be thrilled with the chance to coach Shaun Phillips (the elusive great pass-rusher who can do other things just as well) and to have young talent like Cam Thomas and Vaughn Martin supplying depth and a bright future.
Do I think he'll be drastically different than Ron Rivera? No. Ron was in a tough spot where he was always playing from behind or in a tight game, and chose to play conservatively. About 90% of Defensive Coordiantor are going to do the same thing, and I think Manusky's one of them. However, the one thing I like about Manusky is that he seemed to have lots of success with the young kids that were brought into San Francisco, whereas Rivera really only clicked with veterans like Weddle, Stephen Cooper, Burnett, Garay, etc. I think Manusky could be a better teacher and give the kids more of a shot.