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Mike Munchak is the best offensive line coach in the NFL

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The Denver Broncos got the best offensive line coach in all of the NFL and here’s the data to prove it.

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NFL: Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After being considered for and then eventually passed up as the next head coach for the Denver Broncos, Mike Munchak was hired to be the offensive line coach, OLC. He spent the past five seasons as the Pittsburgh Steeler’s OLC and was the Titan’s OLC from 1997 until he took over as their head coach in 2011. He dates back to when they were still called the Oilers.

I’m fully aware that many NFL fans could not name their favorite team’s OLC much less any other NFL OLC, but I will ask you, the reader, to trust me here. Having an elite OLC can make up for many talent gaps on the offensive side of the ball.

So let’s start by seeing how his OL’s have ranked. We have plenty of data to use, but I am going to draw heavily on www.footballoutsiders.com for this. I will be using: adjusted line yards (ALY) which measures how much of their rushing yardage was independent of RB talent; power rank which ranks how well the OL did in short yardage and goal line situations; stuffed ranking which shows how infrequently (or frequently) running plays gained 2 or fewer yards; and adjusted sack rate rank which factors in how often a team was throwing the ball.

Below are the rankings for all of Munchak’s OL’s excluding his three years as HC. Note that I will not be discussing the quality or health of the OL starters each year. That could be a whole separate study.

Year Age Team Adjusted Line Yards Power Rank Suffed Rank Adjusted sack rate
1997 37 Tennessee Oilers 2 17 6 17
1998 38 Tennessee Oilers 26 5 23 15
1999 39 Tennessee Titans 6 2 10 2
2000 40 Tennessee Titans 20 29 20 6
2001 41 Tennessee Titans 28 9 29 16
2002 42 Tennessee Titans 21 9 18 3
2003 43 Tennessee Titans 30 31 32 7
2004 44 Tennessee Titans 14 28 23 23
2005 45 Tennessee Titans 19 19 19 3
2006 46 Tennessee Titans 27 13 8 11
2007 47 Tennessee Titans 11 6 8 16
2008 48 Tennessee Titans 20 26 28 3
2009 49 Tennessee Titans 22 15 24 3
2010 50 Tennessee Titans 31 31 31 9
2014 54 Pittsburgh Steelers 6 8 1 14
2015 55 Pittsburgh Steelers 8 24 10 8
2016 56 Pittsburgh Steelers 3 7 4 4
2017 57 Pittsburgh Steelers 7 12 5 1
2018 58 Pittsburgh Steelers 15 5 5 4

The average rank in ALY for his OL’s is 16.6, for power it’s 15.6, for stuffed it’s 16.0, and for adjusted sack rate rank it’s 8.7. While the ALY, power and stuffed average ranks are not amazing, it should be noted that if we focus solely on his recent stint as the OLC for Pittsburgh, those values jump to 7.8, 11.2, and 5.0. In other words, his offensive lines in Pittsburgh have been outstanding year in and year out.

It should also be noted that he has done an excellent job of coaching pass protection ever when he had far-from-elite QB’s to protect. His OL’s have been in the top quartile in pass protection eleven times in twenty-one years as an NFL OLC.

Of course we need to have context, so let’s see how the Bronco’s OL’s have done in these four metrics this century to get some comparative context.

Year Adjusted Line Yards Power Rank Suffed Rank Adjusted sack rate
2000 5 12 3 7
2001 8 11 13 21
2002 1 16 1 25
2003 5 17 8 11
2004 6 27 9 3
2005 2 9 1 4
2006 17 16 9 9
2007 17 32 23 14
2008 1 10 3 4
2009 7 27 22 12
2010 30 27 25 16
2011 11 26 9 29
2012 12 9 20 2
2013 8 17 3 1
2014 12 5 9 1
2015 17 23 23 13
2016 18 29 21 27
2017 9 15 7 29
2018 32 26 32 18

You should note two things here. Firstly, Peyton Manning made his offensive lines look elite even when they were far from elite. Secondly, the average ranks for the Bronco’s OL’s this century are: ALY - 11.5; Power - 18.6; Stuffed - 12.7; and Adjusted sack rate - 12.9.

This data seems to suggest that Muncak, at least earlier in his career, was not that great of an OLC. We need to bring in at least one more team for a meaningful comparison, so I chose to bring in the Patriots since their OLC, Dante Scarnechia, gets talked about as being the best in the game.

ALY Rank Power Rank Stuffed Rank
Year DEN PIT NE DEN PIT NE DEN PIT NE
2018 6 15 3 7 5 29 14 5 4
2017 9 7 1 15 12 14 7 5 3
2016 18 3 9 29 7 22 21 4 16
2015 17 8 2 23 24 19 23 10 1
2014 12 6 5 5 8 23 9 1 27
2013 8 22 1 17 21 23 3 24 4
2012 12 27 3 9 19 13 20 17 10
2011 11 3 2 26 24 17 9 23 7
2010 30 19 1 27 12 8 25 24 2

I went back to 2010 for this data to show how the Broncos, Patriots and Steelers OL’s have ranked during the most recent nine seasons, but I also wanted you to be able to see where the Steeler’s OL was before Mike Munchak took over as their OLC so that you could see where they have improved. From a run game perspective here are the average rankings for the Steelers in ALY, power and stuffed during Munchak’s tenure as OLC - 7.8, 11.2 and 5.0. In the four years before that their average ranks were 17.8, 19.0 and 22.0. So you can see that the Steeler’s OL dramatically improved as a run blocking unit under Munchak. For comparison the average ranks for the Bronco’s OL’s over this whole time period were 13.7, 17.6 and 14.6. The Patriot’s OL’s: 3.0, 18.7 and 8.2. You could make a legit argument that the Patriots OL was better at run blocking overall during this time from than the Steeler’s OL under Munchak.

Now let’s turn to some of other OL performance data from another source to get some clarification. This data is www.profootballfocus.com. They call it pass blocking efficiency and it is similar to adjusted sack rate with some more nuances though. Ranks for the three teams from 2010-2018 are below.

Year NE DEN PIT
2018 7th 17th 1st
2017 24th 30th 7th
2016 11th 26th 4th
2015 26th 18th 12th
2014 18th 1st 8th
2013 18th 1st 23rd
2012 16th 1st 26th
2011 7th 31st 22nd
2010 20th 18th 31st

You can see that the Steeler’s OL under Munchak has been the best in the league at PBE over the past five seasons significantly better than the Broncos and the Pats. The average PBE rank for each team’s OL over the past five seasons is DEN - 18.4, NE - 17.2, and PIT - 6.4. That average of 6.4 is best in the league over the past five seasons.

From a play by play perspective what did the improved pass blocking of the Steelers under Munchak mean relative to their prior five years? Let’s dig into the data, most of which is from PFF. The table below shows the difference and it is dramatic.

Time Span Rank Pass Snaps Sacks Allowed Hits Allowed Hurries Allowed Pressures Allowed Pressure Allowed Rate PBE
2014-18 6.4 648.2 17.4 20.0 111.8 149.2 23.1% 87.1
2009-13 23.4 594.6 28.8 26.2 115.8 170.6 28.8% 83.2

The were in the bottom third of the league in PBE every year from 2009 to 2013 (note that I expanded the time window to include 2009 so that we would be comparing the five years prior to Munchak in PIT and the five years with Munchak). The were in the top 10 in PBE in four out of five years that Munchak was their OLC. They went from allowing 28.8 sacks per year to allowing 17.4. They went from allowing pressure on 28.8% of their passing plays allowing pressure on only 23.1%. They went from bad to elite pretty quickly once Mike Munchak took over.

For those who want more background here is the link to my older piece about Munchak. I apologize for not going into detail in this piece regarding individual offensive lineman who Munchak has helped to become better players during his coaching career. I am still planning on writing that up, but this one took priority.

Poll

Mike Munchak is

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    the best OLC in the NFL
    (259 votes)
  • 38%
    one of the best OLC’s in the NFL
    (465 votes)
  • 35%
    just another OLC coach
    (438 votes)
  • 4%
    the most interesting man in the world
    (59 votes)
1221 votes total Vote Now