In a previous blog article, we reviewed this book. But in terms of those of us who are 46 wonks, it has a lot more to say in the rich set of interviews provided for the fan. We’re going to explore those comments a little deeper in this second, companion blog article to the first.
The first point to make is that the text in this article is quite good. Jaws accurately describes how the Bears lined up in the 46 on page 161 of the Ballantine hardback. The diagram, however, on page 169 leaves a lot to be desired. Well, it’s simply wrong.
In comparison, we’ll show you the first page in Rex’s book, which is correct.
If you’re using this blog as a 46 reference, this won’t come as a surprise to you, but the mismatch between text and diagram is disorienting. On this page, however, is a critical passage.
Let’s be clear though: The 46 could not be an every-down defense. The better NFL offenses could still make big plays if it was used too much, so its risk-versus-reward ratio was deemed too detrimental for Chicago to run it for an entire game. But Buddy dialed it up frequently enough (often 30 to 35 percent and sometimes more) to keep quarterbacks guessing.
The defense, in other words, was one of many in Ryan’s pocket. The point ultimately, Jaws and his interviewees argue, was confusion.
Another critical passage, is the effect of modern spread formations on the effectiveness of the “pure 46”. We’ll quote Doug Plank this time:
The tightly packed eight man fronts from our day just can’t succeed as a base defense against spread formations. Offensive coordinators came to the conclusion fairly quickly that unless they spread defenses out, their quarterbacks were going to get hit again and again. That isn’t acceptable today…
Jeff Fisher’s role – this will be difficult to quote and be accurate, because this book uses the phrase 46 to both mean the defense and the philosophy behind the defense – in the evolution of 46 style defenses is described in a Brian Billick quote as follows:
Fisher was the first to adapt it to the modern game. He came up with zone concepts that appeared to give the same look as the original 46 – but weren’t – and that created a new set of problems for offenses.
Of the people truest to the principles of the 46, the authors of this book point to the late Jimmy Johnson, the defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles.