Offensive line coaches often go unnoticed, but the name Howard Mudd gets attention from just about anyone who knows anything about the NFL, and Colts fans more than most. Mudd was a three-time Pro Bowler as a guard in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers before beginning his long and illustrious coaching career helping to mold some excellent offensive lines, including the ones that kept Peyton Manning upright.
So, you can imagine how excited I was to see that Howard Mudd had appeared as a guest on the Move the Sticks podcast, hosted by Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks, to talk about offensive linemen and coaching them. The podcast is in the midst of a “prototypes” series where they dig in to each position and examine what coaches and front offices are really looking for at those positions.
It is certainly an interesting series for anyone wanting to get inside the mind of a scout or coach and learn about specific positions and how they are evaluated at the pro level. The most recent episode was about offensive linemen, and Mudd did not disappoint. Here are some highlights from his interview with Daniel Jeremiah.
On how he coaches run blocking:
“When you’re run blocking you don’t go fast first. You go slow--your first step or two might be slow to gather your position and lower your center of gravity--then you move fast to make contact and then you slow yourself down to maintain your leverage on the guy so that you don’t lose contact. Because if you go into a run block and you’re fast at the beginning you might miss.”
“You want to make contact and leverage that man at the point of attack and get your pads under his. And when you make contact if you start making driving steps and you don’t have the strength advantage, he’s going to throw you off. So the most important thing is that after contact, you maintain contact so that you don’t have to start over. Don’t let that guy stop your momentum.”
On how he coaches pass blocking:
“In pass blocking I believe that you go fast, then you slow yourself down for the moment of contact, and put your hands in there, put your head in there, whatever it is. So you’ve gone fast, settle was the word I use--so it’s fast, then you settle, then when you finish the guy then you start moving your body quickly--hands and feet, to finish him.”
“You’re settling your momentum so that you have control over the next movement that you make.”
On how much time is dedicated to pass protection vs run blocking in practice for today’s game
“I think you spend the most amount of time on the most difficult thing. The most difficult is pass protection. If you throw it 60% of the time, I’d spend 80% of my time doing something in pass protection. When I can pass protect I feel so good about where I’m at because all of the body movements that are required to react to the man and redirect myself, get myself in the right position, don’t get faked out, know what to do with each little movement he makes. If he bull rushes me I know how to do that. I’m a maverick, I spin and hop and do all kinds of stuff… I do everything I can to keep myself in front of that guy.”
“Football as an offensive lineman isn’t played with strength and power, it’s played with leverage and quickness. If you’re strong and you’re quick and agile and have balance, now you have a Hall of Famer.”
On Quenton Nelson
“He’s learning this year to be an athlete before contact. That’s what we’re charging him with. Think about yourself as an athlete first. All that strength and power and aggressiveness, which is great, will come if you’re in the right position and you’ve got the man leveraged and your hands are in the right place and you start moving your feet it’s over for them because you’ve got so much talent.”
Mudd notably signed on with the Colts as a senior offensive assistant for the 2019 season, and that means we should expect to see his influence all over the already promising offensive line group the Colts have developing there. Zach Hicks talked about some of what that might look like here, specifically in reference to Braden Smith. From the way Mudd talks, we should see an even more aggressive and technically sound offensive line group in 2019 and beyond.