Open Communication Imant to New Defensive Coordinator Larry Coyer
INDIANAPOLIS – Larry Coyer said recently he cannot do it alone. Not only that, he does not want to.
Coyer, in his first season as the Colts' defensive coordinator but nowhere near his first season – or even first decade, really – coaching, said recently he not only likes his new position, but he could hardly be more impressed with the players with whom he is working.
They are hard-working. They are dedicated.
And most of all, they are smart.
Which is a reason when it comes to the Colts' defense – although much of the offseason talk is about changes and aggressiveness – Coyer said the key buzzword may be communication.
"You need to listen to your players," Coyer said recently. "We try to have an open-door policy. We can't incorporate everybody, but we need to listen to our players because they play the game. Coaching genius is great, but if they can't execute it, it isn't nothing. It's playing genius that we need.
"We're trying to incorporate player input into our game plan."
That approach has drawn praise from players, who call Coyer 'Old School,' but use the term in the most-respected way possible.
"He has his own style and he's 'Old School,'" Colts four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "I like to sit down there with him because he has so much knowledge and so much experience, so you can kind of pick his brain.
"That's what I like to do. I like to sit there and talk to him."
Freeney said in Coyer's case 'Old School' does not mean outdated. Not even close.
"When I say 'Old School,' I say 'Old School' from the standpoint of, 'He's been around,'" Freeney said. "That doesn't necessarily mean that he coaches old school. Times have changed and things change in the game, and he's been great so far at changing times.
"He likes to get the guys that want to make plays in a position to make plays."
It is how Coyer plans to do that that has piqued the interest of Colts fans this offseason.
The Colts under former defensive coordinator Ron Meeks and former Head Coach Tony Dungy ranked among the top five in the NFL in scoring defense in 2005 and again in 2007, but they rarely blitzed, instead opting to focus on rushing the quarterback with four linemen.
Colts players throughout the offseason have talked of the defense being more aggressive, with Head Coach Jim Caldwell and Coyer each saying that while there will be tweaks and adjustments, the Colts' scheme a four-three, Cover 2-based system – will remain essentially the same.
"Really what we do is no different than what they've done in the past," Coyer said, who spent the last two seasons as an assistant in Tampa Bay and four years before that as defensive coordinator in Denver. "Anything that we're doing they've had in the past here. The big deal that we're trying to do is the mindset of stopping the run game. They are playing really hard and (racing) to the ball, which was a Coach Dungy deal. I think we have to recapture that a little bit, run to the ball, everybody, frenetically. . . . I think they know what we want to do, and how we want to do it.
"They're very attentive. It's been very good. Each day I have more respect for these players. The more you know them, the more you respect them. They bust their butt, they're attentive, they have pride, I have great respect for them. They are very smart."
Coyer said while he has run blitz-oriented schemes in the past, that is not as necessary in Indianapolis because a line that features Freeney and Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis often can pressure the quarterback without help. Coyer, too, said "aggressive" does not necessarily mean "blitzing."
"We'll be aggressive, but really when it comes right down to it, there's nothing structurally that is any different," Coyer said. "I did that one time. We did "Blitzburgh", and we won 13 games (in Denver in 2005), but I think that's for a special time and a special place. We were "Blitzburgh" because we couldn't rush with four. I think here everybody knows we have a chance to rush with four."
Coyer also said far more important than scheme and blitzing is not just the basic need to stop the run, but to improve on third downs. He called that area a major offseason focus.
"We have to give our offense more possessions," Coyer said. "We have to get our defense on the sideline, they know that for our defense's sake. I think that is a major deal for us. Third down is a critical deal."
Whatever the focus, Coyer said the important thing is the players' approach. He said he long admired the Colts' organization, particularly during the current streak of seven consecutive postseason appearances, and said recently upon arriving in Indianapolis he quickly learned the reason for the success.
"These guys have great attitudes," Coyer said. "They have wonderful attitudes. Where it got to be in Denver and where it was in Tampa was the defensive football team expected to shut them out. That's the truth. We expected to go out there and turn the ball over and make plays, and we could win 3-0 and we could win 10-7. I think that our players have that attitude. I believe that.
"They have pride. They want to be able to play games like that. They're really solid individuals and there is great leadership in this locker room. I think we'll be that kind of team. I think we are going to go out there and tee it up nose-to-nose. That's our plan. We are going to tee it up and let it happen. The attitude is here. These guys know how to win. I don't know if anybody takes that tritely, but they've won 12 games, now nothing is guaranteed to anybody, you have to earn your stripes.
"The big deal with that is … we have to play like we have one heartbeat. Everybody's got no heroes and one heartbeat. Everybody gives it up for everyone else."