Discovering Clancy Pendergast: Q&A With Arrowhead Pride


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via cdn1.sbnation.com

With all the hoops action, we haven't had a lot of time to discuss the Pendergast hire. Now, I've always personally felt a change in DCs isn't going to significantly impact results on the field as long as we don't see a drastic alteration in scheme (not likely), personnel (maybe in a year or two, but not yet) or style (now looking quite possible). So there could be a bit of a change next year. With no real expectations going into next year, it should be fun to see what Pendergast does differently from his predecessor with similar players.

One of the positives that Thoroughbred picked up was that Pendergast is only two years removed from coaching a Super Bowl-worthy defense. Coaching a Cardinals defense that was on the verge of a Super Bowl does bring some big recruiting muscle and give people the idea that these guys will develop them to play in the pros (akin to Steve Marshall's hire last year). We won't know how good he can be on that side of the coin until next January.

Scheme-wise, who knows how Pendergast's approach will work out. The aggressive defense had its merits during Arizona's Super Bowl run (destroying Jake Delhomme's career, shutting down the Steelers offense for much of the game), but also seemed to backfire just as much (getting obliterated in huge road contests, blowing a second half lead to the Eagles in a matter of minutes, giving up the Super Bowl game-winning drive). Arizona fans complained about the inconsistency of this one track mind approach, but maybe it'll pay off a little bit better in college where O-lines aren't as strong and quarterbacks aren't as accurate. Nick Aliotti has done okay with this sort of approach up north, and he's only been at Oregon for hundreds of years.

Kansas City picked him up the year after and there was definitely more consistency. By consistency, I mean consistently bad. But then again, the Chiefs have been kind of a mess for awhile, so it's hard to figure out how much of this was Pendergast's fault, especially given only one year.

Arrowhead Pride (the Chiefs SBN blog) quickly seemed to pinpoint the main reason Cal plucked our new DC away from the Raiders.

On National Signing Day in early February, Cal coach Jeff Tedford said he recruited linebackers with the 3-4 defense in mind. His goal, he said that day, was to create pressure on the quarterback.

Experience with the 3-4, a pressure oriented defense, was the main reason Clancy Pendergast was hired away from the Raiders as defensive coordinator, according to reports.

"Hopefully, I can bring the ability to be a very good teacher of the game, give our players direction and put them in position to use their strengths along with their talent to make plays," Pendergast said according to the other AP. "We want to play smart, tough and aggressive. Those will be the three keys."

Intrigued, we delved further and engaged in a spirited Q&A with Arrowhead Pride. Our questions and their answers come after the jump (an interview with Arizona's SBN blog is still in the works).


1. Cal runs one of the few 3-4 systems in the college level. Did Pendergast use the 3-4 well in his lone year with the Chiefs?

Yes, he ran the 3-4 in his only year with the Chiefs. He also ran versions of it with the Cardinals in the years prior.

2. Our former DC Bob Gregory employed strategy dictated by the personnel that were available--if we had the talent we did more stuff with them; if we had less we were a little bit more conservative with our approach. Does Pendergast take a different approach?

Well, his one year with the Chiefs was also the first we switched to the 3-4 defense. There were a few times when it seemed that he was placing a round peg into a square hole but, then again, it was year one for the Chiefs and the 3-4. The decision to move to that defense came from above (GM Scott Pioli) so Pendergast kind of had his hands tied.

3. Gregory also made it his priority to stop the run--Cal's run Ds were generally top 25, a pretty good accomplishment when facing top offenses like USC and Oregon every year and dare teams to beat us with the pass. Does Clancy have any particular defensive philosophy that you're aware of and was borne out on the field?

He was a little handcuffed with his personnel (lack of a true, effective nose tackle, second year and first year defensive ends) but the Chiefs were 31st in rushing yards allowed. Time and time again it seemed they couldn't get a stop to put a team away or come up with a key stop to get the ball back late in the game.  Stopping the run was a major problem that Pendergast couldn't do with sub par personnel so it's hard to place blame on that one.

He seemed to try a lot of quirky formations out of the 3-4. It was almost like he was trying to confuse the opposing quarterback into making a mistake instead of forcing him into a mistake with strategy or scheme. This has been something that more than a few folks have brought up with Pendergast.

4. People seem to praise Pendergrast's secondaries.  Is he simply a good DB coach or do his schemes help generate more pressure on opposing QBs, which in turn helps make the secondary look better?  Does he seem to prefer man or zone coverage for his DBs?

He's been a defensive backs coach in the past and really brought along some solid talent in Arizona.  Look at safeties Antrel Rolle and Adrian Wilson as well as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (as a rookie). 

He also inherited a couple of good corners with the Chiefs in Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr who both had solid seasons.  The Chiefs safety play, though, was very, very bad throughout the season.

For the most part, he wants to generate pressure on the quarterback and put his secondary in a position to make a play.

5. When Pendergrast wasn't using the 3-4 defense, what other defensive formations would he use? 

Very seldom he used a 4-3 under, which is similar to the 3-4 but for the most part he was a 3-4 only guy.

6. What led to him being "relieved of his duties" from your team?

Well, his story is kind of funny.  He was officially hired early on in the Todd Haley era (February/March 2009) but wasn't initially assigned a title. Turns out, the Chiefs were waiting to hear on Romeo Crennel last year.  Crennel ended up taking the year out of football, and when he told the Chiefs of his decision, Haley made Pendergast coordinator.

From the vibes I've gotten, it was clear that if/when the Chiefs could hire Crennel, Pendergast would be in a different role. So this wasn't a long-term marriage from the start.

(Plus, Haley did Pendergast a pretty big favor by keeping his name alive in the NFL hiring cycle because he had some pretty bad defenses with the Cardinals)

After Crennel was finally hired last month, Haley gave Pendergast the option of sticking around in the organization in a different role. After a few days, he and Haley came to what was described as a mutual decision to leave the team.  He soon signed on with the Raiders (and his salary was split with the Chiefs) before doing something we all love to hear -- leaving the Raiders in the dust -- and moving to Cal.

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