Eagles offensive line coach Mudd has proven track record

Posted: February 10, 2011

For more than a decade, Howard Mudd's job was protecting Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, the cerebral quarterback with a talent for reading defenses but whose mobility is largely limited to his pre-snap arm waving.

Now Mudd, the Eagles' new offensive line coach, is charged with drawing up ways to keep defenders off Michael Vick, whose unparalleled running ability creates unpredictable situations for offenses and defenses alike.

Mudd said this Pro Bowl quarterback, though, will get the same kind of protection as the last one. On every play, he explained, there is a spot where the quarterback is expected to throw from. Mudd will focus on making that one place a sanctuary.

"We're going to protect one spot," Mudd said. "Let him do what he does, and we'll do what we do."

If Vick runs, that's his choice. His linemen, meanwhile, will make sure they keep one place safe, Mudd said Wednesday as he discussed his approach to his new team after 12 years coaching the Colts' offensive line.

Mudd, who was briefly retired and sat out last season, has a significant new task: fixing leaks on an offensive line that allowed 49 sacks last season, fourth most in the NFL.

"I don't like the number," he said. The total is more than double what Mudd's Colts teams gave up in an average season.

Mudd, who arrived in Indianapolis in 1998, the same year as Manning, coached offensive lines that allowed the fewest or second fewest number of sacks eight times in 12 seasons. Only four times did they give up more than 20 sacks in a season.

It helped to have Manning under center, but even early in the quarterback's career the Colts ranked among the best in the NFL at protecting their passer.

Mudd's philosophy sounds straightforward, and mirrors the talk coming from a slew of new defensive coaches who also vowed to simplify things.

"Keep it simple. Do a few things and do them extraordinarily well. That's kind of going to be our motto," Mudd said. That way, when something goes wrong, it's easy to find the problem.

Mudd, though, is known to use some unconventional methods.

"Howard was out of the box before out of the box was ever a term," said new defensive line coach Jim Washburn, a close friend of Mudd's. "He's just different."

Mudd, for example, said his linemen practice spin moves, which goes against normal blocking technique.

Linemen are told to always keep their eye on their men. But, Mudd said, cornerbacks may spin in order to beat their man to the "junction point" of the receiver and ball. Basketball players spin to recover on defense. Why not linemen trying to stop pass rushers?

"We practice that," Mudd said.

Mudd said he has not reviewed much film on the Eagles' linemen yet but has spoken to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg generally about systems used in Indianapolis and with the Eagles.

This is Mudd's eighth stop in an NFL coaching career that dates back to 1974. He thought he was finished. Retired to Phoenix, he was asked one day by his wife if he missed the game, and Mudd said he didn't. He didn't feel any urge to chase new jobs.

About an hour later, though, his phone rang, and it was Andy Reid calling to coax Mudd back. Reid has said he wanted Mudd to take over the offensive line before moving Castillo to defense. It took about 12 hours to finalize the arrangement.

"Andy is pretty persuasive," Mudd said.

No Sacks Allowed

Here is how many sacks the Colts allowed and their NFL rank during the seasons that Howard Mudd was their offensive line coach:

Year        Sacks Rank

2009          13             1

2008          14            4

2007          23            7

2006          15             1

2005          20             1

2004          14           t-1

2003          19           t-2

2002          23             4

2001          30           10

2000          20           t-1

1999          14            1

1998          22             2

- Jonathan Tamari

Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214 or jtamari@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JonathanTamari.

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