As many high school seasons come to an end around the country, and job hunting season gets closer and closer every day for others at the college and NFL level, I decided to reach out to a few coaches and coordinators and brainstorm about the types of things they look for when hiring a new assistant coach.
Since the offensive line community probably the tightest knit of any position group out there, I decided that was a perfect place to start.
Below you’ll find the 9 traits that head coaches and coordinators look for when hiring a new offensive line coach. As hiring season gets closer, we’ll continue this feature looking at other positions to help coaches in the profession.
1 – Experience
While I mention experience right off the bat, I don’t necessarily mean it in the traditional sense of having “X” number of seasons under your belt. While that certainly has value, I also mean experience in coaching a variety of schemes (both blocking schemes and overall offensive schemes), and facing a variety of different fronts. However, you look at some of the most respected offensive line coaches in the game and you’ll notice that the common thread they all have is experience.
2 – Enthusiasm
Your enthusiasm for coaching the front five should be evident in your interview, and that should carry over to working with your guys. That same enthusiasm should show when a kid makes a mistake and you get after him, as well as when they help to spring a big touchdown, or give the quarterback all day to throw in the pocket. If you can’t get fired up about coaching the offensive line, how can you expect your players to?
I considered intensity instead of enthusiasm for this one, but I don’t feel like intensity is a must have trait to be a successful offensive line coach, enthusiasm however is. Now, a lot of coaches prefer to have an intense personality type guy coaching the front five, but I don’t feel like it’s a must-have for guys.
3 – A proven ability to immediately diagnose issues during a game
Nothing is more frustrating to a head coach or coordinator than to ask where a defensive player came from on game day and not get a correct answer from his offensive line coach, or worse, they get no answer at all. Head coaches and coordinators want an offensive line coach on staff that has proven the ability to diagnose problems when the bullets are flying on game day.
4 – Confidence
When making adjustments, or describing how you’re going to block a certain scheme, head coaches and coordinators want a guy who is decisive, not someone who is going to go to his guys and say, “Well fellas, here’s what we’re thinking is going to work this week…” Players won’t respond to that in the same way as if you present the plan with confidence and assertiveness.
5 – The ability to see all five of your guys on every play
The best offensive line coaches can’t have tunnel vision once the ball is snapped, nor do they get caught watching the ball. They’re responsibility is the five guys that make the offense hum, and no one outside that bubble. Having the ability to focus on JUST those give guys is imperative to game day success.
6 – The eye to make proper adjustments
Come game day, some minor tweaks and adjustments will likely need to be made up front, whether they’re outnumbering your protection and bringing two off the edge on third-down, or putting the 3-tech to the field instead of the formation like they showed on film, coaches and coordinators place a high value on guys that diagnose those types of situations and help to make the adjustments needed.
7 – Someone that can stand the heat
To be an offensive line coach, you’ve got to be able to take some heat when things aren’t going well. Odds are really good that tackles for loss, busted assignments, and sacks are going to happen. On the same note, you have to possess the type of personality that is okay with not having praise heaped on you when things are going great. That’s just the nature of being the offensive line guy. If you feel like crawling into the fetal position when the heat gets turned up, you might want to look at coaching another position.
8 – An unwavering attention to detail and emphasis on the fundamentals
With the guys up front, it truly is a matter of inches and mastering the unique blend of technique and the mindset required to play the position. Head coaches and coordinators want a guy on their staff that is going to emphasize the fundamentals and understand how it all fits together. Most of practice time will be spent working on fundamentals and building muscle memory in your guys for game day, so sought after offensive line coaches are sticklers for things like pad level, hand placement, footwork, etc. and those things are constantly being critiqued.
9 – You have to LOVE the position and have a passion for it
Not just anyone can get plugged in as the offensive line coach. It takes a special individual, and it can definitely be a grind if you’re not absolutely in love with the position. That’s why so many former offensive lineman become offensive line coaches, because of the lessons that it teaches you about life.