Thursday, October 06, 2005

the "46" presidency

In 1985, the Chicago Bears "46" defense laid waste to the rest of the National Football League. The philosophy was simple - blitz, blitz, blitz. And then more blitzing. Though the alignment was risky - 10 men (out of 11) within two yards of the line of scrimmage and only one safety back (in case a quarterback was lucky enough to get a throw off) - it paid huge dividends for the '85 Bears, who won 15 games in the regular season, stomped through the playoffs and won one of the most lopsided Super Bowls in history.

The "46" defense was the brainchild of coordinator Buddy Ryan, who brought it with him to head coaching stops here in Philly and in Arizona. And though some of his defenses after 1985 were very good, his results were inevitably subject to the law of diminishing returns. For the strength of the "46" was not in its alignment, but in its personnel and in the context in which it was used. With defensive stars like Richard Dent, Mike Singletary and rookie sensation William "Fridge" Perry, the Bears had the perfect people to man the "46" - people who could actually get to the quarterback. And 1985 was the first time it was worked to perfection, instilling shock and awe in the hearts and minds of opposing quarterbacks and blockers who hadn't been subjected to anything quite like it before. It was the perfect storm - the men were right and the time was right, and it gave the Bears their only Super Bowl win.

But the "46" defense is hardly perfect. If the men in a defense that's implemented it can't get to the QB, there's virtually no protection against a big play. And even if they can get to the QB, offenses eventually adjust - making it impossible to line up in a "46" formation every time out. Today, no team exclusively plays the "46" (though the Ravens are trying this year, with mixed results). Defenses will show it from time to time, but most defensive coordinators also call for the traditional 4-3, for semi-traditional 3-4 packages, for nickel packages, dime packages, they call for zone blitzes, etc., etc.

Hold on, hold on... I know your eyes are glazing over, but I'm getting to my point. With falling poll numbers and scandals surrounding him, President Bush is addressing the nation with what his administration is calling a "major" address on the war on terror. In other words, he's calling for something straight out of the playbook of 2003 and/or 2004 - back when scaring the shit out of the nation could reverse dropping numbers or distract the populace from some other fuck-up or piece of bad news. Or when calling something "major" could trick the media into giving accordingly major airtime to his standard stump speech.

The two-pronged problem for Bush is this - 1) it's not 2003 or 2004 anymore, falling poll numbers and numerous scandals surround his White House and the GOP, the hurricanes have exposed this administration to some extent and the GWoT is hardly even in the news anymore, and 2) fear appeals inevitably lose their power if they're overused. Yet he's going to try to play the "terra" card once again - possibly because it's all he has left. Who knows?

All I know is that what once worked beautifully when the planets were in alignment now stands a good chance of going over like a fart in yoga class because the world has changed and he hasn't. I could be snarky and say his administration is stuck in a "pre-2005 mindset," but I'm just going to call his "the 46 presidency." When it was the right place and time for it, his governing style produced enormous amounts of political capital. And now, he's running right smack into the law of diminishing returns.

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