Redskins Defensive Coordinator Greg Blache Is Still Feeling Out His Defense

Redskins Coach Jim Zorn, left, and defensive coordinator Greg Blache meet privately each week in the hours before kickoff to discuss the game plan.
Redskins Coach Jim Zorn, left, and defensive coordinator Greg Blache meet privately each week in the hours before kickoff to discuss the game plan. "He's very sound," Zorn said of Blache. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 20, 2009

The greatest hits of Greg Blache include lines about unrequited love ("I would rather fall in love with a stripper than a rookie, because they will break your heart"), about what his defense might smell like ("the south end of a northbound skunk"), about the perils of his profession ("some guys hang glide, some guys downhill ski, some guys bungee jump, we coach"). And then, there is this assessment of how his Washington Redskins defense fared against the running game of the New York Giants:

"We lost," Blache said.

There is, through all the bluster, a bottom line, and Blache believes in only that. He does not buy into numbers. He does not run information through statistical models. Looking for an answer you want, rather than the answer Blache believes in, then you best ask elsewhere.

"I'd compare him to working for, maybe, a pulp-wood hauler," cornerback Fred Smoot said, trying to come up with the truest, bluest-collar occupation available. "If he ran a company like that, hauling stuff, I think he'd run it just like he does our defense. Very straightforward. Not going to hold his tongue."

For a couple of seasons, when he coached the defensive line with the Redskins, Blache publicly held his tongue, thus depriving fans of some of the most colorful descriptions in all the NFL. Now, he is in his second year as the coordinator, and with the responsibility that comes with leading a defense -- one that hosts the St. Louis Rams on Sunday -- comes the responsibility of assessing it. He did that after the 23-17 loss to the Giants with, naturally, an analogy.

"It's kind of like driving a new car," Blache said.

Of course it is.

"He can give you anything you need," linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti said, "from Oprah Winfrey to George Carlin."

But whatever Blache says, be it succinct or meandering, it sounds unwavering, convincing, even defiant. His opinion rarely changes to match yours. "We never know which one we're going to get," Smoot said, "but we always prepare for the worst."

Entering the second game of the season, Blache is feeling out his defense and its personality, learning how it drives. Sunday afternoon on the sideline at FedEx Field, his reading glasses will be at the end of his nose, his defensive call sheet at the end of a string around his neck, his week of preparation at its culmination. Blache has been the Redskins' defensive coordinator for just 17 regular season games, but his unit could be the one to lead Washington back to the postseason. Much of the focus after last week's loss was on quarterback Jason Campbell, on Coach Jim Zorn and the play-calling, on how the Redskins would score enough points to win games.

But the defense, on paper, is easily the strength of the team. The formula is simple: Take a unit that gave up the fourth-fewest yards per game in the league a year ago, add all-pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and promising rookie linebacker-defensive end Brian Orakpo, and how could there not be improvement?

"Doesn't mean anything," Blache said.

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