In 1992, former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Holmgren assembled what is regarded as one of the great coaching staffs in recent history. On that staff were five future NFL head coaches in Jon Gruden, Andy Reid, Steve Mariucci, Ray Rhodes and Dick Jauron.
Also on that staff, serving as a defensive line coach, was Greg Blache.
Blache, of course, is now the Redskins' defensive coordinator-defensive line coach. He has also had stints with the Indianapolis Colts (1993-98) and Chicago Bears (1999-2003).
Blache has developed a reputation as one of the league's brightest defensive minds and, in the early going this season, he has the Redskins' defensive line playing solid, aggressive football.
The Redskins' defense is ranked third overall in the NFL and second against the run.
The defensive line does not have a big name among them, but in Cornelius Griffin, Renaldo Wynn, Joe Salave'a, Brandon Noble, Jermaine Haley, Demetric Evans, Ron Warner and Phillip Daniels, they have a corps of solid players playing hard as a unit.
"The guys have paid attention to detail and worked hard on their technique," Blache said. "They have done the little things right."
Ever the perfectionist, Blache added: "We just have to be more consistent. If we do, then we have a chance to be a real good football team because we make the opposing offense one-dimensional. It's easier to rush the passer, bring pressure on the blitz, and so forth. In any ball game, you have to put the focus on stopping the run first--and so far we've been fortunate enough to do that."
In the Redskins' 17-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday, the Redskins' run defense struggled in the fourth quarter in stopping running back Jamal Lewis. He finished with 116 yards on 28 carries, but most of those yards came after the Ravens' gained the lead in the third quarter.
"We let our technique get away," Blache said. "We had a couple of guys try to do more than they needed to do, as opposed to doing their job. I have some proud guys and they all want to be the guy who says, 'I'm going to be the guy who makes a play.' But they have to realize that by doing their job, they are giving us the best chance to be successful--and not necessarily free-lancing and trying to create a play."
In addition to his pro coaching experience, Blache has held positions with several colleges.
He began his coaching career as a defensive assistant at Notre Dame in 1968. He would go on to coach at Tulane, back to Notre Dame for another stint, then on to Southern University and Kansas before joining the Packers in 1988.
As defensive coordinator in Chicago, Blache's unit was ranked 14th in the NFL last year. Three seasons ago, in 2001, Blache led a Bears defense that was second in the NFL in run defense and yielded just 203 points in 16 games, or 12.7 points per game.
In this Sunday's game against Chicago, Blache and the Redskins' defensive line are challenged with containing running back Thomas Jones. He leads the offense with 361 rushing yards and 21 catches for 156 yards and he has four touchdowns.
"He's running with authority and he's finding creases," Blache said. "He's very elusive, and then you have to be wary of him catching passes out of the backfield. We have to find a way to deny him the football, and when he does get the ball, we have to minimize the damage he can do to us."
Blache said he was looking forward to returning to Chicago to play his former team.
"It'll be exciting to see some of the guys who you coached when they came into the league--guys like Brian Urlacher, Alex Brown and Mike Green," he said. "It'll be fun to compete against them."
Blache has fond memories of Soldier Field as well.
Perhaps better than anyone on the Redskins, he recognizes the challenge that lies ahead for visiting teams.
"It's a very difficult stadium for an opponent, because of the swirling winds, because of the crowd noise," he said. "The fans are right up on you. It's a closed stadium and it's very rowdy. They love their football in Chicago.
"Chicago's tradition is to be a very physical football team on both sides of the ball. It's been that way for years and hopefully it'll be that way forever because that's part of who they are."