AFC South: Marty Schottenheimer
February, 2, 2010
By Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Michael ConroyOffensive line coach Howard Mudd's last game in a 40-year career will be Sunday's Super Bowl XLIV.MIAMI -- Here’s Howard Mudd’s plan: After the Super Bowl, he’ll go back to Indianapolis, then spend some time in Arizona.
And the next time he reviews film, it won’t be from the coaches’ tape of Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7 against the New Orleans Saints. Instead, it will be from the long-lensed Nikon camera that’s hung around his neck for the last week of his NFL career.
Mudd snapped a picture as he walked off the Indianapolis Colts' plane Monday and more at Tuesday morning’s annual media circus.
“In case it turns out to be a nice picture to remember the event itself,” he said. “It is the last one, but it’s also a big deal. At the media day [of Super Bowl XLI] I had my wife’s camera and I had it on video and it was supposed to be on still, I screwed it up some.”
The Colts' storied offensive line coach will call it a 40-year career as a player and coach after Super Bowl XLIV. Unlike many grizzled veterans before him, he’ll be free from temptation to return.
Pete Metzelaars, the heir who will replace him for the Colts, knows things will never be the same.
“I think they’ll be a little softer,” linebacker Gary Brackett said. “I don’t think anyone is as hard as nails as Howard, that’s really old-school coaching at its finest. I guess he played a while in this league and was a very tough, aggressive lineman. And that’s exactly what he does for his linemen.”
Mudd played as a lineman for the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears from 1964-71. He has coached in the league since 1977 for San Francisco, Seattle, Cleveland, Kansas City and, since 1998, Indianapolis.
AP PhotoAs a player from 1964 to 1970, Mudd found innovative ways to slow down pass rushers.
That happened to be the year the Colts spent the No. 1 pick in the draft on Peyton Manning. Mudd said he’s pleased to have played any small part in the career of the quarterback, a player his unit has made sure is rarely on the ground. (Ryan McCrystal of ESPN Stats & Information tells me that since sacks became an official stat in 1982, no one has endured more sacks than former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway with 516. At his current pace, Manning -- who has suffered 215 sacks in 196 games -- would break that record at some point during his 29th season in the league, just before his 50th birthday.)
While he might appear gruff, Mudd can be a sweetheart. He’s a motorcycle aficionado. Mudd wants nothing more in retirement than to dote on his grandchildren in the Seattle area, get more fit and ride, wet roads be damned. Maybe he’ll get better with that camera, too.
Over the years, his lines have worked to fend off some pretty good pass rushes from division rival Tennessee. As a result of those matchups, he forged a friendship with Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn.
The friends rode their motorcycles together through Africa last summer.
Washburn raved about Mudd’s inventiveness as a player, when he figured out ways to slow down the likes of Hall Of Famer Merlin Olsen despite being overmatched. Basically, Mudd said, his ploys were spin moves or unconventional routes to regain position and sometimes pushes that carried Olsen or another rusher right past the play.
“I’ve seen a few clips, they were black and white,” Colts guard Ryan Lilja said. “He ran around and it’s funny to see him do the same thing that he teaches us that not a lot of people do. He was a gritty player, man.”