Posted: 6:00 am Friday, January 10th, 2014

Todd McClure: Oline coach ‘can make a big difference’ 

By D. Orlando Ledbetter


We wanted to chat with Falcons coach Mike Smith about the hiring of Mike Tice.

But we were told that Smith wanted to keep grinding away on getting the defensive line coaching candidates interviewed. He wants to have his staff in place before the Falcons leave to coach in the Senior Bowl.

Otherwise, he’d be mobbed by every unemployed coach in America and that would take time away from scouting and coaching the prospects.

So, I’m going to save my questions here, so when he comes up for air, we don’t forget them even though they won’t be as newsworthy.

Former Falcons center Todd McClure lead the line out of the tunnel.

Former Falcons center Todd McClure lead the line out of the tunnel.

–Why Tice?

–How many people did the Falcons interview?

–Why didn’t the Falcons wait for Jeff  Davidson who could be let go when Minnesota gets a new coach?

–Did you call your buddy Mike Munchak (I guess the Titans vs. Falcons practices in Dalton are off?)

–Did you all talk to Bruce Matthews?

–Tice’s seven lines have not protected the passer very well, but have been strong running lines. How does that fit the Falcons’ offensive scheme?

–Why another former member from the Jacksonville staff? Was he best candidate or did you value loyalty and fit over a new possibly unfamiliar more-talented coach?

So with Coach Smith and Tice unavailable, we turned to one of our offensive line experts, retired center Todd McClure.

He believes Tice, and his tough guy persona, can help the Falcons.

“He has great schemes,” McClure said. “I think if you look at where ever he goes, he’s been probably top five in rushing and I think that’s what these guys are looking for, to get the rushing game back going. From everything that I hear, his schemes and everything are great.”

McClure was a seventh-round pick (237th overall)  in 1999. After suffering a knee injury, he broke into the lineup in 2000. He started 194 of 197 games over the next 13 seasons before being forced into retirement last season.

McClure wanted to return, but the Falcons wanted to clear the way for Peter Konz to take over at center. McClure, a lifetime Falcons, didn’t want to continue on with another team and retired.

When the Falcons thought Konz may have a broken ankle early last season, they called McClure  to check on his availability. He was ready to return, but Konz’ ankle checked out and he was able to carry on.

McClure  played for four different head coaches and knows what kind of impact a good offensive line coach can have. He was a product of Alex Gibbs’ zone-blocking system.

“I think they can make a big difference,” McClure said. “I know that Alex Gibbs kind of changed my career. He kind of ran the show. If he told you something, it wasn’t going to change. That’s just how it was. A coach can make a big difference, but you must have right guys to make the change also. You know, the right players.”

A new line coach probably saved Justin Blalock’s career. As a rookie and second-round pick, he played under Mike Summers, a first-year NFL coach on Bobby Petrino’s staff. Blalock was a hot mess and benched during his rookie season.

He regrouped under long-time offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, who came in with Smith in 2008, and has flourished.

Tice is going to get a chance to help Konz and tackle Lamar Holmes reach their potential. He could also get the No. 6 pick and some free agents to help with the talent level. The Falcons need to make decisions on prospective free agents center/guard Joe Hawley (bring him back!!!!), Mike Johnson (bring him back!!!!), tackle Jeremy Trueblood and tackle Sean Locklear.

In addition to getting in the weight room, the linemen must buy what Tice is selling, which should be a big 10-gallon can of “Whoop- Ass.”

“You’ve got to buy into what he’s selling,” McClure said. “When Gibbs came in, if I can remember, he knew the type of guys that he wanted and he went and got them. He was the voice and he knew what type of guys he had to have for his scheme and they allowed him to go get them. It worked out for us when he was here.”

Whether the Falcons believe they have the right players, we’ll see over the next few months in free agency and in the draft.

We’ll get into rating the free agents later, but here’s a list of the prospectives.

PROSPECTIVE UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT TACKLES

Jordan Gross,  Carolina; Zach Strief, New Orleans; Eugene Monroe, Baltimore; Anthony Collins, Cincinnati; Branden Albert, Kansas City; Rodger Saffold, St. Louis; Eben Britton, Chicago; J’Marcus Webb, Minnesota; Dennis Roland, Cincinnati; Andrew Gardner, Houston; Bruce Campbell, Carolina; Jonathan Scott, Chicago; Mike Johnson, Atlanta ; Sean Locklear, Atlanta; Breno Giacomini, Seattle; Tony Pashos, Oakland; Winston Justice, Denver; Tyson Clabo, Miami; Austin Howard, New York Jets; Jason Fox, Detroit; Jeremy Trueblood, Atlanta; Sam Young, Jacksonville; Will Svitek, New England; Ryan Harris, Houston; Jared Veldheer, Oakland; Mike Otto, Tennessee; Guy Whimper, Pittsburgh; Charles Brown, New Orleans; Marshall Newhouse, Green Bay; Michael Oher, Baltimore; Eric Winston, Arizona; Khalif Barnes, Oakland and Bryant McKinnie, Miami.

PROSPECTIVE UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT GUARDS

Travelle Wharton, Carolina; Geoff Schwartz, Kansas City; Jon Asamoah, Kansas City; Shelley Smith, St. Louis: Richie Incognito, Miami; Mike Pollak, Cincinnati; Brian Waters, Dallas; Garry Williams; Carolina; Willie Colon, New York Jets; Geoff Hangartner, Carolina; Chad Rinehart, San Diego; Rich Ohrnberger, San Diego; John Jerry, Miami; Charlie Johnson, Minnesota; Zane Beadles, Denver; Jeff Linkenbach, Indianapolis; Vladimir Ducasse, New York Jets: Wade Smith, Houston; Kevin Boothe, New York Giants; Jamon Meredith, Buffalo; Shawn Lauvao; Cleveland; Oniel Cousins, Cleveland; Chris Williams, St. Louis; Mike McGlynn, Indianapolis; Paul McQuistan, Seattle; David Diehl, New York Giants.

PROSPECTIVE UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT CENTERS

 Dominic Raiola, Detroit; Alex Mack, Cleveland; Evan Dietrich-Smith, Green Bay; Roberta Garza, Chicago; Jonathan Goodwin, San Francisco; Brian  De La Puente, New Orleans; Steve Vallos, Denver; Joe Hawley, Atlanta; Dylan Gandy, Detroit; Dan Koppen, Denver; J.D. Walton, Washington; Mike Gibson, Arizona; Ryan Cook, Dallas; Joe Berger, Minnesota; Chris Spencer, Tennessee; Cody Wallace, Pittsburgh; Fernando Velasco, Pittsburgh; Andre Gurode, Oakland; Ted Larsen, Tampa Bay; Brad Meester, Jacksonville; Robert Turner, Tennessee; and Ryan Wendell, New England.
42 comments
anothercomment
anothercomment

They need to get Todd McClure back now. They made a huge mistake of not bringing him back last year. If not as a player. Then as a coach. Or player development person.

JSSN
JSSN

Ledbetter...

Did they put out any feelers to Jeremiah Washburn when Detroit dropped the ax?

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

SOME OF THESE GUYS ARE JUST BACKUPS, THEY PROVED THAT DOING THE COURSE OF THE SEASON. THEY NEED TO BRNG IN SOME MAULERS. THE FALONS HAVE TO CATCH UP WITH THE LIKES OF THE 49RS, PANTHERS, SAINTS AND SEAHAWKS IN THE TRENCHES TO BE SUCCESSFUL MOVING FORWARD.

WilMasisak
WilMasisak

I really like the Falcons three young tackles… Holmes, Schraeder, and Jones.  If a good OL coach can start investing in getting those guys to be ready, it's maybe a two-year transition until you have a great LT, RT, and swing guy.  I expect Terren Jones to come to camp at an ideal weight next year and compete for a starting job if they let him.  In the preseason, he was excellent… just heavy to be a LT in the NFL.  Those young guys just need reps, experience, coaching, and the removal of dead weight in front of them.

LeftisnotRight
LeftisnotRight

Falcons are saying the right things, moving on seemingly the right problem (linemen), this coming season will be either great improvement or big changes for 2015......the front office and coaching staff should now have all the motivation they need to get back into the playoffs.....

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

A better question, "Is Tice going to get us from last to first?"  Some how I think Blank will be saying some time next year, "I think we have a failure to communicate".

FalconJames
FalconJames

I think DLED should ask what JSSN think before he waste his time talking to Smith or McClure.

Swatsdude
Swatsdude

There will not be a big change in personnel along the offensive line Konz, Holmes, Hawley, will for sure be back hopefully Falcons can get a couple of starters for the Oline in the draft and free agency looks like we are stuck with a core of guys and have to hope they improve one because they want to and two because of the new coach!! Hopefully they play better as a unit.

Falcons63
Falcons63

Thank goodness McClure provides an opinion that the right coach can in fact make a huge difference in the performance of the oline.  I pointed this out previously using the example of the change from 2007 to 2008. Hopefully this can quiet the "scapegoaters" for a little while.  I think the questioning of the Tice hire by Ledbetter is ridiculous.  Blank has been pretty obvious that Smith and Dimitroff are on the hot seat.  I seriously doubt Smith would be looking to hire Tice because of "cronyism" when his butt is on the line.  I have no problem whatsoever with Smith hiring Tice.   If I'm going into a season with my job on the line, I want guys around me who will be loyal and on the same page.  Any coach would feel that way.  If it's a bad hire, everyone will be looking for new jobs.  Having to justify his choice to a beat writer is laughable.  Mummyhead... I agree with you 100%!!!!!!

Quackmeyer
Quackmeyer

Maybe Holmes can move inside.  Got beat like a rented mule at OT.

Chilidawg
Chilidawg

I will be amazed if L Holmes is a starter on next year's team.  He seemed totally unprepared.

HometeamFan
HometeamFan


TD and MS, 5 big men make up OL.  You guys worth your jobs?  Just find Falcons 5 Great Men.  Start from scratch.  Build us an OL.  You guys Worth your weight in salt?  DL  in 3 - 4 takes how many Big men?  3!!!  We have needed 2 DE's for 10 years.  Do you guys know what a DE looks and plays like?  NT?  Get 1 just 1 man who weighs 375 and can push center back 4 yards in backfield.  Come on guys earn your paycheck. 

reckingball
reckingball

To TD and MS..........Just do something, to improve the OLine and DLine, especially the OLine!!!!!

I'm tired of this crap.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

fanatical: We were watching two different teams, or can't you count to nine?

fanATicaL
fanATicaL

The problem is that harsh critics of this Oline .Viewed each person individually,not as a unit.They didn't  play well as a unit,either. But got progressively better as the season ended.They definitely need a veteran presence such as EMonroe or AMack.But not sweeping changes ,because it will effect the chemistry of the unit.

Not worried so much about the pass blocking. Because as we saw in the last 2 games.The quick release of MRyan and chemistry of 1 of the duo RWhite.Changes the way this team plays.Add Julio and the machine runs almost at 100%.Adding Julio stretches the defense and also allows SJackson room to be effective.

If the Offense runs almost 100% the defense isnot out on the the field as long.In turn these rookies wont be out on the field long enough to be exposed.

Defensively we need to bring back Babs and CPeters,for the right price.ADent ,SNicholaus and Deccoud have made themselves expendable.Would like to see JAllen,JByrd and BOrakpo ,for the right price.Understanding critics the Cap is the balance.The draft being the balance if Clowney drops to us,it changes some.But a strong WR and RB should be drafted.My Opinion only

RangeRover
RangeRover

We haven't had a good OL since the 1998 season; we haven't had a "great" OL since 1990 when we had Kenn, Fralic, Hinson, Dukes, Hoover, Hunter & Scully.


The 1990 OL could both move the DL in the running game and pass protect as well as any OL in the NFL.

Hemmorid_Sufferer_2
Hemmorid_Sufferer_2

Ledbetter.


You can do one of two things when dealing with criticism.


1) Work on your communications skills. Run everything through spell check. Hire an intern to help. 


2) Pretend it is not an issue. Secretly correct the errors when someone points it out and then delete the post(s) of those who are critical. 


Sadly, you continue to choose #2


Happy new year. 

decatur_g
decatur_g

My 2014 wish list (subject to change - ;) ) with optional picks in-case the first option is gone:

-----------------------------------------------------------------


1st round - OT - J. Matthews (Texas A&M)/G. Robinson (Auburn)
2nd - DT - R. Hageman (Minnesota)/W. Sutton (Arizona State)/A. Johnson (LSU)
3rd - LB - C. Jones (Florida State)/J. Attaochu (GT)
4th - RB - A. Williams (Boston College)/T. Gafney (Stanford)

Moe_Green
Moe_Green

So the same coaches that did wonders 2 years ago are now worthless? The only thing that has changed is the roster. Gee.....What is the common denominator here? 

xmgq
xmgq

 If the falcons dont draft Louis Nix DT from Notre Dame first.. They will suffer the same result.Draft defense and build the O. line thru free agency and if u still have faith in  L.Holmes and KOnz let them sit. Nix great inside presence can push the pocket and demand double teams which would free up linebackers and not allow the QB to step up in the pocket. which would create more sacks for our DE's. Our D-Line hasnt been the same since big Grady was here. We need vets on the O-Line cause we are ready to win now, we dont wanna develop rookies on the line right now and let Matty Ice suffer through there growing pains.NIX-NIX-NIX!

UGA76
UGA76

My question is why after 2 years in the league are we at the point with Konz and Holmes that we think they need to spend more time in the weight room?  I think they are both busts and should be somebody else's rehab project.  I'd much rather have a couple of guys busted their humps trying to get better than these guys.

The line needs the best OT on the board (hopefully Matthews) in the 1st round followed by the best available G in the second round.  Then go DL for the next 2 picks and then come back and take the highest rated lineman regardless of which side they play.  

This needs to be a lineman draft.

Dawg69
Dawg69

From what I've seen since 1966 is that an OL usually is much better when the individuals have worked together for a few years.  Atlanta has had some good OLs and those usually met this definition. To completely remake the entire OL could be a disaster, not even considering do the Falcons have the money to sign whoever they want.   I think the Falcons will keep some of the current individuals (Konz and Holmes) and probably try to upgrade RT, C and maybe LG. but they have equal problems on the defensive line so they can't go wholesale for the OL.  But one big problem that has to be solved is they have to keep Matt Ryan from being thrown on his butt.  He can't win games when he is on his butt six or seven times a game.

58Supersports
58Supersports

I have a problem with these former Jacksonville friends as coaches. They couldn't  win in Jax so why should we

believe they will here.  Pray!

syrupmaker
syrupmaker

First off, I believe Mike Tice will be an upgrade over what we had.  Secondly, this team needs an infusion of talent on the oline.  Once we infuse new talent, let go of the dead weight (Hawley and Reynolds).  Put Konz, Holmes, Schrader, and Mike Johnson in the weight room before any evaluation starts.  These guys evidently are not physically fit (STRONG!!!).  Same goes for oft injured Sam Baker. If Tice doesn't have any use for them after that, bench or cut.  Simple as that.

Regardless of what we do, draft a plug and play right guard in the 2nd round or Antonio Richardson, the 6'6 340lb tackle of of Tennessee.  By all means spend some real money on veteran starting caliber tackle in free agency.

gfw
gfw

I think I'm not alone among fans in wanting to see an entire new OL next year.  (Even Blalock is just an NFL-average guard, but he can probably be a sub.)  Still, for as long as I've been following the NFL (and I'm 65) I don't recall this kind of wholesale line-change being executed before.  Also, I'm not sure Smith and Dimitroff are really the ones to put together an outstanding OL out of free agency and the draft.  So, frankly, I'm a little depressed.

BigIrishMike
BigIrishMike

Question is can Coach Tice do the job with the people the Falcons have. A number of the very good offensive line went away due to money over the last 3 years, is suddenly more money available ? Or is Tice enough of a difference maker that he will be able to mold this unit to anything close Coach Gibbs did.

If you remember under Gibbs the defense was worried about the "dirty and nasty" offensive lineman Atlanta had. The O-line was already in their heads the minute a defensive tackle stepped on the field against the Falcons. That is an edge that Atlanta exploited no trouble getting a first down on a 3rd and 2 then by runningthe ball.  

  Here is hoping for a healthly and motivated offensive line in 2014 with a couple of draft choices. Also hoping for that FSU or one of the ND D-Tackles to help out.

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

Whoever they have in those spots, they need to be strong and uber-competitive.

JSSN
JSSN

@FalconJames 

Ha Ha, he already knows. Juxtaposition is a wonderful thing.

notPlanB
notPlanB

Baker will probably be back for 2 or 3 games. I think Baker's career defines Thomas Dimitroff's capabilities better than any draft choice he has made. Lose a pick by moving up in the 1st round to pick an injury prone player. Baker misses many games in the next years due to injury. His contract year, he plays decent. To defend his choice of his pick, TD gives Baker a huge contract to have him miss most of the 2013 season. Peria Jerry is next.

WilMasisak
WilMasisak

@Chilidawg This is what it's like when you are getting thrown to the wolves for the first time in the NFL.  This happens to 95% of guys starting at LT for the first time, because there's just no preparing for it in practice.


That said, by 2015 I fully expect Holmes is the swing tackle behind Terren Jones and Ryan Schraeder or playing inside.  Hopefully for ATL fans, Tice can give everyone a fair shot from the beginning so that the best 5 can play.

notPlanB
notPlanB

We should draft a OT with our 1st pick. Baker can move to RT for the 2 or 3 games he plays each year.

RangeRover
RangeRover

@fanATicaL  


"But got progressively better as the season ended."

You clearly then didn't watch the same games I watched.  They got progressively WORSE as evidenced by the 9 sacks from Carolina at season's end and the firing of the OL coach…you don't fire someone who's result are "progressively better" as the season unfolds.

JSSN
JSSN

@RangeRover  

Who is "Hinson?"

Do you mean 7x Pro Bowler Chris Hinton?


And if you're going to reference them (Kenn, Fralic, Dukes, Hoover, and Hinton), their last year as a productive line was 1993. 

WilMasisak
WilMasisak

@syrupmaker I think they could move Lamar Holmes to RG, use T Jones as the swing OT provided Baker comes back healthy.  If they are going to recommit to the run game, that makes a lot of sense.

JSSN
JSSN

Irony, 6 different things being presented as two!

JSSN
JSSN

@Moe_Green

Regardless of where Alex Gibbs coached from Oakland to his last stint in the  Seattle leading up to the 2010 season. He coached zone blocking and stout line (no retreat) pass line blocking to complement the West Coast offense. Simple as that, they flow as a unit. Tice benefited from veteran talented linemen previously trained by others in Minnesota. Everywhere else since he's struggled with developing linemen.


By the way, the year after he left Chicago, they retooled the line, only Garza survived the purge.