How former NFL players say new Alabama football assistant Doug Marrone coaches blockers
The Georgia offensive linemen hadn’t even started spring ball yet in 2000 when they saw the jar.
It hung from a light in their meeting room, holding slips of paper. New offensive line coach Doug Marrone told them those slips had the names of players he thought would make it all the way through spring without coming up with an excuse to miss practice.
“I’m thinking, ‘Holy crap,’" offensive lineman Jon Stinchcomb said. “Who is this guy?’"
They didn’t know if there were actually names on the paper or not, but they didn’t want to chance it. Stinchcomb, who played for Marrone at Georgia and later with the New Orleans Saints, said it resulted in one of the most competitive camps.
He and his teammates did all they could to stay on the field. For spring ball, mind you. Not games or even fall practice.
“From the jump, he was challenging your manhood,” Stinchcomb said. “Are you going to be a guy looking for a quick exit?”
Alabama's new offensive line coach isn’t OK with players relaxing or taking days off at practice. As an assistant with several college teams as well as the Saints and Jets prior to his days as a head coach, he established himself as a demanding teacher who loves the game, drills technique and develops offensive linemen.
Former players in the NFL expect that to be similar with his newest pupils.
“He has so much respect for the game itself and the commitment all those who have come before him and the program he is part of,” Stinchcomb told The Tuscaloosa News. “He has a 30,000-foot view that leads to that appreciation that he feels demands a certain level of commitment from him, and he sets the tone that way for those who are in his charge. He then conveys that level of commitment and expectation that anything less is unacceptable.”
Sometimes that commitment meant staying after practice. Jonathan Goodwin, a center who played for Marrone with the Jets and Saints, said he couldn’t recall many instances during his 13-year career when he saw position coaches staying after practice to work with young players. Marrone did.
Goodwin appreciates it now, but he and other young players didn’t love that extra work then. Marrone had them working technique and driving blocking sleds after exhausting practices.
“He felt like if we could do it when we were fatigued, it would be easier when you’re in the middle of the game and you’re fresh or things would come a bit more natural,” Goodwin said. “We hated it as players, but looking back on it, it ended up being huge for us.”
Both Goodwin and Stinchcomb raved about Marrone’s attention to detail in teaching technique. Stinchcomb said Marrone helped coordinate his hips and his hands. For Goodwin, Marrone fixed his hand placement and where the center punched on the defender.
For a while, Goodwin fired his hands outside on pass rushers. Marrone then had him work punch drill after punch drill until it got better. One example of a drill Marrone liked to use: Players hold a 45-pound plate and work on kick slides in pass sets while shoving the plate in the air.
Goodwin’s hand placement became so good that by the time he played for San Francisco, the coaches there used him as an example for younger guys on punch and hand placement.
“All that came back from Doug being on me early in my career,” Goodwin said.
Stinchcomb said Marrone could find something to improve on just about every block, not because the offensive line coach wanted to nitpick for the sake of nitpicking but so players could continue to improve.
‘That’s where I think he really excels,” Stinchcomb said. “Working with guys to recognize that good isn’t good enough when great is possible. He pushed just about anybody in that meeting room that was willing to listen to him.”
And Marrone is never afraid to rip a player when warranted. Especially if it relates to work ethic or effort.
One day with the Jets, Goodwin and a few other rookies sat with Marrone in the o-line meeting room. Goodwin couldn’t recall the specifics, but he remembers how Marrone went off. Everyone in the building heard it.
After the fact, others from the floor below asked Goodwin: “What in the world did you all do?”
“Every day you come to work, you come to play for Doug Marrone, he is going to expect your best,” Goodwin said. “It will be great for those guys at Alabama.”
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