A Line in the Mudd

Lost in the wake of the whole “Juan Castillo to Defensive Coordinator” brouhaha is the slightly-less important news that the Eagles hired Howard Mudd as Offensive Line Coach.

Whether it was prior to promoting Castillo (and setting that chain-of-events in motion) or after the fact, the Eagles were able to nab Mudd, who coached the Indianapolis Colts’ Offensive Line to great success, from 1998 to 2009. And much like the addition of Jim Washburn from Tennessee, Mudd could prove to be a huge coup for Andy and the O-line.

Since the 2000 season, Mudd’s Offensive Line units have posted the best pass protection numbers of any NFL team – leading the league in sacks allowed in four of his last five years and in the top-two in nine of his last eleven years! Very impressive, especially when you consider the Eagles line has been mediocre at best in pass protection, averaging the 18th overall in sacks since 2000. Below you can see the breakdown of both the Eagles’ and Colts’ total offensive line ranks and pass protection ranks from 1999 (when Reid took over) to 2009 (when Mudd left the Colts), courtesy of FootballOutsiders.com (and make sure to check out their expanded statistical analysis).

The two teams have been relatively on par with each other over the course of the decade, but the Colts really stand out in pass protection – an area where the Eagles have sorely lacked, which seems crazy considering they average nearly 35 pass attempts per game.

The question is: Do these rankings reflect the scheme or the personnel? It would certainly seem that the personnel play a huge role. Both offensive lines have produced seven Pro Bowl appearances: Tra Thomas (2002, 03, 05), Jermane Mayberry (2003), Jon Runyan (2003) and Shawn Andrews (2007, 08) for the Eagles; and Jeff Saturday (2005, 06, 07, 09) and Tarik Glenn (2004, 05, 06) for the Colts.

But consider those sack ranks again, and then think of the two Quarterbacks that played in the majority of those seasons: Peyton Manning and Donovon McNabb. Manning is known for his hot reads, audibles and quick release (all conducive to getting sacked less). McNabb on the other hand (and Kolb and Vick to an extent), was notorious for holding the ball too long and taking a sack rather than risking an interception. Couple that with Andy Reid’s refusal to allow his Quarterbacks to change the play at the line, and you have a team that lets up a good number of sacks.

So will Howard Mudd(*) come in and improve an abysmal Offensive Line? Potentially… I assume that’s what the Eagles are thinking. But barring an upgrade in personnel – particularly at Right Guard and Center (and maybe at a Tackle spot) – it may take some time to rebuild this thing. Similar to what Castillo and Washburn are facing with the Defense, Mudd is desperately in need of better players, or else there will be little improvement.

The Eagles need to drastically upgrade the Line on both sides of the ball. So far, it appears that they’ve found the right coaches.

(*)And of course, Mudd makes me think of this:

3 Responses to A Line in the Mudd

  1. joe says:

    Mudd didn’t coach in 2010, he retired http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=4143964 And it didn’t look like he wanted to retire. So making the job easier for the devil, they didn’t have to steal him from the colts, they had to steal him from his golf caddy!

  2. MidStaterUXB says:

    I’d say that’s quite a coup, getting Mudd away from the Colts. I think he’ll do a good job, but of course that’s predicated on the players he has. I still have to scratch my head at moving Castillo to the defense; in any case, the real fact of the matter remains that the Eagles need the players, and I don’t see the ‘brain trust’ changing their methods to get them.

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