Over at CGB, the’re discussing the 10 best moments from 2008. In the process of discussing #3 the idea of the Bend But Don’t Break defense came up and HydroTech objects to the term:
I’m pretty sure Gregory hates it when Cal fans use the whole “bend but don’t break” line to describe the defense. I remember some interview of him where he thought that phrase was inaccurate. In a sense, that line is inaccurate to describe our defense because that line implies that other defenses aren’t “bend but don’t break,” however every defense is a “bend but don’t break” defense in that every defense would much rather give up yards and a field goal rather than a touchdown.
Defenses are all the same. They share the ultimate goal: stop the offense.
What differs in defenses is how they accomplish that goal. Some prefer to be very aggressive. Others prefer to be less aggressive. Cal fans tend to associate “bend but don’t break” with less aggressive defensive play, but to only associate that line with less aggressive defense is to ignore the fact that more aggressive defenses are also “bend but don’t break.” Whether a defense is more aggressive or less aggressive, they both want to minimize the amount of yards the offense gains. They do that via different methods. A more aggressive defense will blitz more often hoping to get sacks, and putting the majority of the defensive duties on their secondary to lock down the WRs to prevent completions. A less aggressive defense will drop more men into coverage hoping to get more incompletions and interceptions while putting the majority of the defensive duties on their defensive line to get a good pass rush on their own. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. As of lately, due to the 2007 collapse, many Cal fans have become adverse to less aggressive defense, and have begun to inappropriately use the phrase “bend but don’t break.”
(I couldn’t decide how much of his description to give you and in the end decided to give you the entire thing.)
Sorry Hydro, I think you’re awesome and I love your commentary, but this particular one is ripe for a take down!
My first complaint is that Hydro is over-emphasizing a name. While I generally agree with him that accurate names are preferable, in the end, we do need to come up with a name for things even if they fail to perfectly describe that thing. So yeah, BBDB may not be the best name for the defensive strategy at issue here but we do need a name for each defensive strategy. And just about all defensive strategies use names that are true for all defenses. “Prevent” defenses don’t have a monopoly on trying to prevent touchdowns. “Contain” defenses don’t have a monopoly on containing the opposition. “Pressure” defenses don’t have a monopoly on applying pressure. “Zone” defenses don’t have a monopoly on using zone converages. I could go on and on. The names point out the areas of emphasis, not exclusivity. Just because other defenses attempt to “Bend But Don’t Break” doesn’t mean that it can’t be used to describe a particular strategy.
Which brings me to my second point, there’s no doubt that in 2007 the Bears used a specific defensive strategy that was different from the earlier Gregory defenses and most definitely different from the 2008 3-4 defense. Hydro makes it seem, perhaps unintentionally, that all defenses are the same and we should shy away from naming them. Hogwash! The 2007 defense emphasized more than any defense during the Tedford era keeping the defense behind the play. It rarely put the individual secondary positions “on an island” to go man-on-man against the receivers. It’s reasonable to ask that this defensive strategy be given a name.
Fundamentally, there are different strategies. One could call the highly aggressive defense the “Pressure But Don’t Prevent” because they do accept the risk that they’ll completely blow it on one play and give up an 80 yard TD. What they’re counting on is that 9 possessions out of 10 the opposition gives up the ball quickly without gaining many yards. So there’s no aspect of the “prevent” defense in their scheme, instead they focus heavy “pressure” to force the 3 and out. Is it a great name? No, but it is somewhat descriptive.
So if we’ve got the PBDP versus the BBDB, one has to admit, no matter how poorly they’re named, that they are two different defensive strategies AND (and I think this is what really bugs Hydro, is that people don’t realize) they’ve both got their pros and cons.
I mean, let’s phrase BBDB in the positive. They’re going to minimize the number of points our opposition scores on each possession and decrease the number of possessions that the opposition has to score (because all the time each possession takes off the clock). By making them march slowly down the field, keeping everything in front of them, the opposition is going to take a lot of time off the clock getting down the field and when they get close, because the defense hasn’t been killing itself trying to force the quick out, they’ve got lots of energy when the shorter field is to their advantage.
Doesn’t that have at least some benefit? Isn’t Bend But Don’t Break at least a reasonable name for that strategy?
Now, one could make a number of counter-arguments:
- That BBDB is a bad strategy.
- That the Bears didn’t use a BBDB defense in 2007
- That the fans don’t properly understand what BBDB is
- That BBDB is a poor name for the strategy
Fair enough, but none of those things take away from BBDB being a defensive strategy and that’s it’s not the same as all the other defenses. So, unless Hydro or someone else would like to come up with a new name and get the rest of the Cal Blogosphere to adopt the name, I say we stick with BBDB to describe the defensive strategy that most people accuse the 2007 Bears of using with lots of zone coverage and emphasizing keeping everything in front of the secondary.
None of this should prevent Hydro from:
- Criticizing TwistNHook from using BBDB for the 2008 defense
- Criticizing those who symplify the BBDB defense to “playing soft”
- Emphasizing the positives of the BBDB defense
- Reiterating the common goals of all defenses
But let’s just accept BBDB as the short-hand name for this style of defense.