The Colts announced their big news yesterday, that defensive coordinator Larry Coyer had been terminated. Since then, I’ve heard several claims that Larry Coyer didn’t deserve any blame for the defensive fiasco. Critics pointed to Coyer’s first year as being successful, a vast improvement over the days of conservative Ron Meeks, and that the injury problems and lack of talent in the last two years are what have derailed the defense. But that version of history is simply incorrect.
While injuries and mismanagement of defensive backs have played a part, Coyer’s defensive schemes have not helped anything, in fact, they’ve been a harmful force ever since his hiring in 2009. Let’s compare Coyer’s defenses to the defenses of years past, using both conventional and advanced metrics.
2008: 310.9 (11th)
2009: 339.2 (18th)
2010: 341.6 (20th)
2011: 389.4 (29th)
Points Per Game:
2008: 18.6 (11th)
2009: 19.2 (8th)
2010: 24.2 (23rd)
2011: 29.7 (32nd)
DVOA* (Weighted in parentheses):
2008: 10th at 0.1% (8th at -2.3%), 9th against the pass, 18th against the run
2009: 15th at 1.7% (19th at 5.2%), 11th against the pass, 20th against the run
2010: 24th at 8.2% (26th at 9.5%), 26th against the pass, 18th against the run
2011: 31st at 19.5% (31st at 21.4%), 32nd against the pass, 30th against the run
*Because the DVOA is for the defense, a lower (negative is best) the number the better
2008:11th in pts/drive, and 4th in TOs/drive
2009: 14th in pts/drive, and 15th in TOs/drive
2010: 25th in pts/drive, and 25th in TOs/drive
2011: 31st in pts/drive, and 31st in TOs/drive
Obviously, there’s a steady decline since Coyer has taken over the reigns at defensive coordinator, and it didn’t just coincide with the injuries in 2010 and a “lack of talent.” The 2009 squad arguably had a better squad than the 2008 one, with Dan Muir and Antonio Johnson replacing Keyunta Dawson and a rookie Eric Foster at defensive tackle, Clint Session improving, and Jerraud Powers replacing Tim Jennings as starting cornerback. Despite the similar (or more likely, better) amount of talent, the 2009 squad performed worse than the pre-Coyer 2008 one, no matter what people may have felt at the time.
In my opinion, people were just happy to see a few blitzes thrown in every once in a while. By now, it was clear that Coyer needed to go, and while he isn’t the only one to contribute to the 2011 debacle, he certainly has been a factor in the demise of the defense. Whether it was the awful cushioning at the beginning of the season, the revolving door at cornerback, the gross misuse of Jerraud Powers, the disfiguring of the Tampa-2, the Tryon saga, or any number of failed coaching moves, Coyer has been awful, and was the first that needed to be replaced.