Earlier this week I had an opportunity to interview Assistant Offensive Line Coach for the Ravens, Todd Washington. Below is the interview that I wanted to share with all of you:
What are the greatest challenges you face as an offensive line coach?
There’s a great deal of challenges that you face when it comes to coaching offensive line. The biggest one is the task of getting 5 men, not just football players, but five men, that learn differently, to work together and play for each other. This is the biggest challenge for any coach but it is vital in offensive line play. You rarely hear great things about us when something goes right. It’s usually when something goes wrong. Getting guys to play for each other no matter how good or bad things can get. That’s tough but not impossible.
The second is that I constantly work at my craft and find ways to be a better teacher. There are a lot of good coaches out there. But the BEST coaches are teachers of the game. They teach concepts, theories, and techniques of the game instead of memorizing what was told to them from a book. I feel that I’m a teacher of the game. I am constantly learning and finding new ways to teach our guys.
Throughout your entire football career as a player and a coach, what is your greatest football memory?
The best memory I can recall was when I was drafted in the 4th round of the 1998 NFL Draft 104 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was the beginning of an eight year NFL career. The highlight was winning Super Bowl XXXVII. We defeated the Oakland Raiders in San Diego. Being a part of one of the best teams that ever played the game, and knowing that you are immortalized in the Hall of Fame as a Super Bowl Champion, it’s a feeling that cannot be described. I will always remember that.
How has the absence of Ben Grubbs affected the entire O-Lines ability to protect our backfield?
Not having Ben in the lineup has been tough. It is very hard to replace a competitor like "Grubby". He is working his tail off to get healthy and get back into the lineup. As a coach, we cannot dwell on what we don’t have. We have to focus on getting the available guys ready to go. Andre Gurode was next in line to step up and fill the spot when Grubby went down. It’s pretty cool that your back up has 10 years of NFL experience. He has stepped in and has played better each week. Once Ben gets back, it will give us much needed depth and experience to get ready for the big push. (second half of the season)
What are your thoughts on rookie Jah Reid? And have you gotten to work with little-known lineman Ramon Harewood?
Jah and Ramon are two big, intelligent, athletic guys. They are very eager to learn. Jah has been improving each day and is getting comfortable with the offense. I have worked with Ramon before he was placed on injured reserve. Having two big bodied guys that can move, it’s hard to find these days. Unfortunately, the lockout really hurt their development. Not having them learn the offense during the offseason, no meetings, no drills, no lifting, and no contact during the contact really put both guys in a chase mode during training camp with the older guys. The good thing is that all 32 teams have the same issues. Jah has done a great job of working hard and constantly learning. Ramon is getting healthy again. I am looking forward to having both of them for a full off season program. I really feel that both of them will soon push for playing time. This will add more depth and solidify the line.
Is there a difference in the mood in the locker room leading up to a non-divisional matchup versus a Divisional matchup?
All match-ups are very important. Divisional games are very important of course. You win your Division, you are in the playoffs. However, the Non Divisional games are just as crucial. When teams start having identical records and are fighting for the precious wild card spots, they will look and compare your Non Divisional records. That, and along with other things, will provide the NFL tiebreakers that will decide who will continue playing or who will be watching the playoffs at home. It’s crazy that you can have a 10 win team not play in the post season. It has happen before.
What is it like to be in the locker room amongst greats like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed?
It is a true blessing, honor, and privilege to have played and now coach in the NFL. I have been around a lot of great players. Some of them are bound for the Hall of Fame. Ray Lewis, who I played against in college, Ed Reed, Ray Rice, Michael Oher, Ronde Barber, Warren Sapp, Warrick Dunn, Derrick Brooks, etc. I could go on and on. These men approach this game with a passion that no one will ever describe. Being able to witness this firsthand, I noticed that all of them share one common trait. They respect the game. I firmly believe that if you respect the game, the game will respect you in return. It’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of the National Football League, not a right.
One final question, what advice would you give to young athletes like me who aspire to make it to the NFL?
I firmly believe that we dream for a reason. We dream because deep down, we want to leave our "mark" in this world. Our dreams hold the key for us. It constantly reminds us that we are here for a purpose. If you want to make it to the NFL, you have to look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that this is your goal.
Next, you have to have a plan. You need a set of smaller goals that will ultimately lead to the main one. Don’t let someone say that you can’t do it. If they say "no", you say "go". Only you can stop you. Surround yourself with successful people – people who share the same hopes and dreams that you do. They will help you stay on course. It’s ok if you have to take a step backward to go forward. It has happened to me. Understand that we all have a path that we walk. Along the way, there will be situations that will test you. Some good, some bad. Being able to make decisions that will help you attain your goal is very important.
I know it is easier said than done and you may make mistakes. Let’s learn from them and continue to grow. Once you’ve reach your goal, make sure you thank the people that helped you get there. Make sure you thank the ones that didn’t believe that you could do it. They all played a role into your development.
Life, as we know it, is a beautiful struggle. We don’t know it until you achieve something. Then you will look back at the process and you will be thankful and humbled by it.
Best of luck to you all!!!