'Aggressive' defense: Is there any other kind?

2012 Penn State vs Navy-92 On Thursday, Penn State football assistant John Butler talked about his new gig as defensive coordinator. This caught my eye:

What is your general philosophy of defense?
Butler: “I think we are going to be multiple. We are going to be aggressive. We are going to be simple enough so that our players can play really fast.

Aggressive. When was the last time a defensive coordinator or head coach talking about the defense did NOT use that word? Seriously, what’s a coach going to say, “Yup, we’re going to be a passive defense. We’re going to sit back and see what the offense does.”

This comes from a chat I had over a year ago with Phil Steele, discussing his favorite types of schemes:

I do have a pet peeve when it comes to defense though and it happens whenever a team hires a new DC. Always, always, always the DC and the HC say that they will be a more aggressive and attacking style of defense and never do I hear that they will be more read and react. If you don’t believe me go back and check any article from a team that has a new DC and I would be surprised to not find the words “attack” and “aggressive” in there. This is just a major pet peeve of mine.

I’m not trying to trash John Butler or what he wants to do at Penn State. His predecessor said almost the same thing last season, when Ted Roof called the new defense “multiply aggressive”:

This is a matter of word choice, which seems nit-picky. Maybe it’s even a matter of politics. Imagine the fanbase’s reaction had Butler said Penn State was going to be less aggressive than last season? I’d imagine a mini-meltdown on the message boards within minutes. But he repeated “aggressive,” because that’s what fans want to hear. Sending blitzes and running man coverage isn’t necessarily aggressive defense. Most coaches would call that just “defense.”

But for Penn State, any time the corners play within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage is considered a major breakthrough after a decade–a successful decade, mind you–of “bend but don’t suck break” under Tom Bradley. To use a football metaphor, Penn State has moved the goalposts significantly when it comes to defining an “aggressive defense.”

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