Colts Offensive Line Coach Howard Mudd to Coach Final Game in Super Bowl XLIV
FT. LAUDERDALE, FLA. – The end is near for Howard Mudd, a day away now.
The Colts' Senior Offensive Line coach knows this, has known it since training camp, when on a hot August day in Terre Haute, Ind., he announced the 2009 season would be the last of a career that has lasted 36 NFL coaching seasons, with eight NFL playing seasons before that.
So, although Mudd – who has spent the last 12 seasons as the Colts' only offensive line coach in quarterback Peyton Manning's NFL career – hasn't said much to his players about the significance of the moment, yes, he is very much aware.
And the imant thing Mudd said to know about it is this:
He's OK with it. He's ready – as ready as possible, at least.
"It is time," Mudd said as the AFC Champion Colts (16-2) prepared to play the NFC Champion New Orleans Saints (15-3) in Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium Sunday at 6:25 p.m.
Because it's time, Mudd said there have been no tears this week, or this season.
He said as he met with the media this week before his final game that he won't say there hasn't been times he has been close. And he said he knows there will be a time in the future they will come.
It has been too busy for tears this week, he said.
The routine has been too familiar.
But while that is true, Colts offensive linemen said this week that while Mudd will be gone this week, he certainly will not be forgotten. Not for a long time.
"Obviously, I have been with him forever," said Colts center Jeff Saturday, who has worked with Mudd since 1999 and started since 2000, becoming the unquestioned leader on the line and a Pro Bowl selection four of the past five seasons.
"I think I have been the player with him the longest in his career. I call him, 'Old Crazy,' because he can be that way. When he's on the sidelines, going through his hair, he's throwing his hat down, he's doing all kinds of crazy stuff, but you know that there's a method to his madness."
That method has allowed the Colts to be one of the NFL's top lines throughout Mudd's tenure, to do so without early-drafted players. Saturday wasn't drafted. Nine-year starting right tackle Ryan Diem was a fourth-round selection. Starting left guard Ryan Lilja wasn't drafted, and neither was starting right guard Kyle DeVan. Left tackle Charlie Johnson? A sixth-round selection.
Longtime starting left tackle Tarik Glenn was the only offensive lineman to play for the Colts under Mudd drafted in the first round.
Still, the team allowed 227 sacks over his 12 seasons, fewest in the NFL.
This season, the Colts allowed 13 sacks. Manning was sacked 10 times.
"He truly knows what he's doing as an offensive line coach," Saturday said. "He's been an All-Decade player (in the 1960s), a Pro Bowl player (San Francisco, 1966-1968). This guy has been in the trenches."
And although he won't be on the Colts' sidelines after Sunday, he will be in the offensive line meeting room – on the wall, anyway. Diem said there is a picture of Mudd on the wall. It's not a normal-looking picture, Diem said.
"It's a little creepy," Diem said.
But it will stay, Diem said – probably for a long time.
"It will be different," Diem said. "It will be quieter, that's for sure. He definitely brings some flavor to our room. He's a special guy, though, very talented."
Diem said without question Mudd will remain in another, more significant way. The skills he taught, on and off the field, were the kinds of things that shape careers, and Diem said the skills and philosophies will shape how the Colts' line plays into the future no matter the identity of the next offensive line coach.
Mudd said he imagines that's true, too, and said this week that will make him truly happy if that's the case. He said what would give him satisfaction is not if the Colts' line plays poorly without him in the future, but if they continue to play well. He said the idea is not that the players need him around to be successful but that they have been taught well enough to succeed even if he's not.
Mudd's 36 consecutive seasons as an NFL offensive line coach means he has been an NFL assistant for a longer period of time than anyone currently coaching. Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell, who worked with Mudd as an assistant for seven years and as a head coach for one, said that experience is irreplaceable in more ways than can be defined.
"Howard has been a guy who has given a lot to our profession," Caldwell said. "He is exceptional at what he does. He also has great passion for what he does and that certainly spills over into our team and in our linemen and other areas. I take him for his word. He says that this it for him and we certainly take that to be the case. Howard is usually straightforward.
"He doesn't cut any corners. He's going to tell you like it is."
There is an irony to Mudd coaching his last game at the Super Bowl – or perhaps, Mudd said, a fittingness. He was, after all, a member of the Pro Bowl team in 1966, and because of that, he was in the stands for the first Super Bowl, played 44 years ago. He recalled that day this week.
"Just the Super Bowl in itself is such a magnificent thing," Mudd said. "I wasn't a participant. I sat in the stands and watched the first Super Bowl. It was unbelievable. I had gone to the Pro Bowl, so they had all the Pro Bowl players all sitting at the 50-yard line in the first one.
"I looked down there and went, 'Look at all these people I am sitting with.' The magnitude of that part was there and then the Super Bowl. The buildup of the first one and now every one is such a magnificent thing. Then, to have that be your last game, is pretty cool."