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."
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.
If you're 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 today — 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.
"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. Sundays 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.
Blache despises on-paper assessments. Throughout training camp, and deep into the preseason, he resisted that simple analysis.
"We have the chance, the potential to be better," Blache said in early August, and it is as far as he would go.
In the days leading up to the game against the Giants, as outsiders heaped expectations on his players, he was almost apoplectic.
"It's very, very anxious," he said. "You're very concerned, because you're a new football team. ... Personally, I can't wait until we kick it off, because then my stomach may settle down just a little bit."
Standing on the sideline, with a headset strapped across his baseball hat and his eyes peering at his players over his specs, Blache does not show that roiling stomach.
"He doesn't panic," Zorn said.
He looks more like a professor. He does not pump his fist when the Redskins come up with a sack. He does not throw his clipboard when they miss an assignment.
"He's so focused," safeties coach Steve Jackson said. "He doesn't want to hear a lot of idle chatter."
He wants, rather, to figure out how to drive the defense.
During the Giants' first possession last week, Blache watched over those glasses as the Redskins allowed quarterback Eli Manning to complete one pass on third and three, another on third and seven. On the next drive, he watched Manning convert on third and six. On the next, a third and nine, then a touchdown pass on third and seven. Five minutes into the second quarter, the Redskins were down 10-0, and Blache's unit couldn't get off the field.
This, then, is what Blache was talking about. All those offseason workouts, all the training camp practices, the four preseason games — none of it means anything once the season begins. How the heck does this thing drive?
"You go out and you know it's a nice car, but you don't know exactly how it's going to handle," Blache said. "If I drive my pickup truck, it drives one way. If I get in somebody else's car, it drives a different way. And that's what I had to find out last week — how those guys were going to drive."
That is a process Blache follows not only during games but in the meeting room and at practice.
"I think the initial impression that you get is that maybe he's distant," rookie defensive end Jeremy Jarmon said, and that is intentional with first-year players, because Blache knows they will let him down. So he turns to his veterans for almost everything.
"He trusts us," ninth-year defensive end Andre Carter said. "We've developed a sense of order, a sense of structure, and he expects us to bring that and teach it to the younger guys."
Zorn, who is in charge of the offense and calls the plays, affords Blache enormous responsibility. Each week, in the hours before kickoff, Zorn and Blache meet privately to discuss the game plan, mostly so Zorn is familiar with what concerns Blache.
"He's very sound," Zorn said.
"He pretty much gives us free rein," Blache said. "I've worked with guys that stick their nose in and fiddle and don't really know, and come in at 10 o'clock at night and want to change things. That's not who he is."
When the Rams played here a year ago, they didn't have a win, and they beat the Redskins. Now, Blache has new ingredients, which he is mixing in.
Last week, as he said, "I revved it up, and got to see what it does.
"I'm going to tell you what," Blache said. "They drive pretty good."
Today's game WHO: St. Louis Rams (0-1) at Washington Redskins (0-1).
WHERE: Landover, Md.
WHEN: 1 p.m.
TV: Fox 35 43Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times