NASHVILLE, Tenn. —As a member of the Washington Redskins during the 1980s, Russ Grimm was part of an offensive line that had a clear identity.
"The Hogs" were a big, and cohesive unit. They opened up big holes in the running game, and took pride in keeping the quarterback clean. As the story goes, Redskins offensive line coach Joe Bugel based the nickname on a description of Grimm.
"I guess it was more based on my body style, my figure,'' Grimm, named offensive line coach with the Titans last month, said on Wednesday with a smile. "We'll just leave it at that."
TitansOnline.com looks at the NFL playing and coaching career of new Titans offensive line coach Russ Grimm. (AP Photos)
The name stuck, of course, as the Redskins had some mammoth offensive linemen around him. Together, the Redskins won Super Bowls and made Pro Bowls, while setting a tone. The fans loved them.
"I'd say it was a blue-collar bunch of guys that just wanted to win. We were one of the bigger, if not the biggest offensive line, back then. We wanted to be able to wear people down,'' Grimm said.
"The bottom line is 'The Hogs' were the offensive line, but we never would have gotten that nickname without guys like John Riggins and Joe Theismann and Art Monk, you know what I am saying? We were winning games. But if we'd lost games you would have never heard of us."
Now with the Titans, Grimm is in charge of leading a large group of men who will need to perform well in the years to come. In recent years, the Titans have struggled to find consistency up front.
The health of quarterback Marcus Mariota, and the well-being of the offense, is at stake.
Grimm, who has 21 years of coaching experience in the NFL with the Redskins, Steelers and Cardinals after 11 years of experience as a Hall of Fame player, said he's not worried about his group earning a nickname under his watch. He just wants to be able to call themselves winners in the years to come.
"I think they'll create their own (identity),'' Grimm said. "I'll leave it up to them. I think they'll be talented enough to get the job done, and they'll be smart enough to not make mistakes and be physical enough to move people. Hopefully you create a chemistry there where everyone wants to be on the same page.
"We just need to get better up front, so we need to have better results. And it doesn't matter if we throw it every play, or run it every play… We have to do what it takes to get Ws on the board."
Grimm, who last coached with the Arizona Cardinals in 2012, said he's refreshed and ready to go after taking a few years off from the NFL after 32 years of the non-stop grind.
He had an opportunity to get back into coaching in previous years, but said the situation just wasn't as perfect as he would've liked.
In Tennessee, he found a perfect fit, he said. Grimm previously coached with Titans coach Mike Mularkey in Pittsburgh, when he also coached alongside current Titans assistants Bob Bratkowski, Dick LeBeau and Lou Spanos. He previously coached with new Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie in Washington. DeShea Townsend and Nick Eason, two members of the team's defensive coaching staff, played when Grimm was in Pittsburgh.
|Grimm (68) was a key member of "The Hogs," one of the NFL's most dominant offensive line units in the 1980's and into the early '90s.|
"I am excited about getting back in it,'' Grimm said. "Obviously I was out of football for a couple of years, had some opportunities but I really didn't want to get back in unless it was people that I knew, people I was comfortable with, people that I'd worked with before, so that was kind of a selling point."
"It's a good situation here, and you want to create a positive atmosphere, you want to build chemistry within the room, the different positions. You have to create an attitude where you want to win, that is the bottom line. You want to win a championship."
Grimm has some players to work with on the offensive line.
Left tackle Taylor Lewan and guard Chance Warmack were both first round selections, and center Brian Schwenke also returns. The Titans took Jeremiah Poutasi in the third round of last year's NFL Draft, and he's expected to be in the mix in 2016. But the Titans also have a lot of uncertainty within the group following a season when the team played with numerous combinations up front, either because of injuries, or underperforming players.
The team has players scheduled to be free agents (Byron Bell) in the group, and other young players (Andy Gallik, Quinton Spain) who will have a chance to make a solid impression under a new coach.
Grimm said he's met a handful of his new pupils, but not all of them.
"Last year is last year, we are starting fresh. Everyone has a clean slate,'' he said. "I want to see what they do when I am here."
So what kind of style will the Titans play under Grimm? Will the look be similar to his units in Pittsburgh and Arizona? Under Grimm's guidance in Pittsburgh, the Steelers averaged nearly 140 yards a game during the regular season en route to Super Bowl XL. He coached a durable group in Arizona. In fact, in 2008, all five of his starters played in all 20 games en route to Super Bowl XLIII.
Grimm also coached nine seasons with the Redskins, where he was instrumental in the development of Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen.
"It was different type groups,'' he said. "In Pittsburgh, I had some good players, and we went to the Super Bowl. In Arizona I had some good players and we went to the Super Bowl.
"But in Arizona it was totally different than Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh we ran the ball more, we were more power-run oriented. In Arizona we opened it up more because of the quarterback in Kurt (Warner). No matter where you are, you have to be able to adjust to the type of talent you have on the team.
"I think going in, being a new staff, we're going to put in all the stuff that we think is good X and O wise. Now when you start to practice and see what certain guys can do, then you have cut it down and limit it to the things you do best."
One thing Grimm won't have to preach – the importance of protecting Mariota.
Mariota was sacked 38 times in 12 games last season, but missed four games because of injuries.
"It's part of the job,'' he said. "You don't have to tell (offensive linemen) they better protect him and keep him from getting hit. If they don't know that by now, they shouldn't be playing the position."