Summer Practice Interview: Mike Bloomgren

After four years with the New York Jets, Cardinal offensive line coach and run game coordinator Mike Bloomgren changed coasts and leagues when he accepted a position in Palo Alto. Read on for the story behind Bloomgren leaving the world's top football league, the role housing played in that decision, and his assessment of the Cardinal's offensive line.

First, if you could get into the process of you coming West. What was your first contact with Coach Shaw, and what was the process of you coming out here?
Mike Bloomgren: So we probably talked the first week after we (the New York Jets, Bloomgren's former employer) lost to the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. Coach Shaw and I just had a conversation and it was more just something set up by [Jets assistant coach Bill Callahan] just getting to know each other. I knew they had a job open, and it was just kind of talking about whether either of us had an interest in each other. And I came by here in mid-February, interviewed for the job, and I think I flew back and took it immediately when I got off the plane.

What was the connection between Coach Callahan and the staff here?
MB: Okay, so Dave and Coach Callahan worked together in Philadelphia, and under Coach Gruden when Jon Gruden was the offensive coordinator. And then when they came out to Oakland, Dave came with as well. And so Dave's just really tight with Bill and I think respects his opinion. At least it got me a chance to have a conversation with Coach Shaw. I'm glad it happened.

What did draw you and appeal to you about this position?
MB: So there's a couple of things. No. 1, I think Stanford's such a unique place. And I knew that, but then coming here and seeing it with my own eyes was pretty eye-opening to be honest with you. It is a special place, and talking with some of the staff members here, everybody from Dave and Pep, and Jason Tarver, who I had known about through league circles, but didn't know, but the reputations of the people around here, it's pretty neat that you have five people on this staff with 35 years of NFL experience and it's still a young staff. I felt like I could come here and still grow and be a part of something pretty special.

Talk about exactly what your NFL experience was. Because I know you had the role of assistant offensive coordinator, quality control, what exactly were your duties and what was your official title?
MB: Okay, that's a great question. I came in [to the NFL] in 2007, I was quality control. And I don't know if you know the history of that position, but it's something that was an engineering term, and Coach Landry, he was an engineer and he brought it to Dallas and people kind of picked it up. What it means in the Belichick system is it means you are the low man on the totem poll and you will work a whole lot of hours. My first year in New York we actually had to sell one of our cars because we were hemorrhaging cash, we took a big pay cut to go the NFL just because it was a dream of mine and my wife let me do it. Hemorrhaging cash is a great way to say it. But she would drop me off on Tuesday morning, about 7:30, and she'd pick me up Friday night. And that's just the way it was. I slept under my desk. That's the way it was for that year.

I ended up getting a promotion, at least in salary, for the second year under Eric [Mangini], and we had a much better year, and got to be around Brett Favre, some of those things, those stories, will be in my book some day, I promise you, but then, after that year, I was still under contract with the Jets, they blocked me from going to Cleveland with Eric and gave me the opportunity to come back. I got promoted to an offensive assistant and got the opportunity to work with Bill Callahan and the offensive line pretty exclusively with my duties. And it was really neat, because I think he's the best offensive line coach I've ever been around, and I feel like I've had the opportunity to be around a couple pretty good ones.

My last year in New York, I interviewed at a couple colleges the year before and was on the verge of taking a job, and Rex called me and said look, don't take it, I'm going to do x,y, and z for you financially, and we're going to make you assistant offensive coordinator. And I don't know if anybody's still sure what that means, but it was really neat for me because it gave me the opportunity to present a lot of things in front of the room. The Brad Smith wildcat package was something we got to do a lot of together, third down, and just having the trust of the offensive staff to give me that role was a pretty neat deal for me.

You worked in smaller college environments before the NFL, correct?
MB: I have. I was a coordinator, a co-offensive coordinator a couple places. I've been at Alabama and Florida State in a couple of different capacities, graduate assistant roles actually.

So you have done some recruiting in the past?
MB: I have.

This is maybe on a bit of a different stage, a different scope?
MB: Well, I don't know if it's on a different scope or not, because when you're at Alabama you're recruiting elite athletes. You're not recruiting maybe as neat of a kid as you are here. That's the thing I found that's really cool is the caliber of kids and the families that I'm getting to meet. I've always enjoyed recruiting in terms of going out and getting to talk to high school coaches and talk ball. I haven't always enjoyed the kids I was dealing with, and here for the most part, you do. It's neat kids. But if you want me to say the biggest difference between the New York Jets and Stanford University is, it's recruiting, period. The football is very similar. We've got a very volume oriented offense, the kids are smart, they understand what we want them to do, they can do it athletically. Recruiting is different than drafting.

Different in a bad way, or just different?
MB: Just different. It's different. There are pluses and minuses to everything, but I'll tell you, I couldn't be happier here, with the housing arrangement and the people I'm working with, I'm really excited.

How big was having the housing?
MB: For my family? Huge. You know, I've heard the stories in the past of how hard it was for Stanford to retain coaches, but I'll tell your right now they've got nine assistants that are working as hard as they can to win games so they can retain themselves at Stanford.

You've got some position battles to keep an eye on. So first day in pads, those guys are going to want to make an impression on a day like did anyone step up today? (Note: the interview was conducted following Wednesday's practice, the first with shoulder pads)
MB: Everybody played really hard out there, and the pads were cracking. Not everyone did the right thing. We have a lot of things to get taught, and that film will be a very important deal for us tonight between 7 and 9.

What will the process be to determine who will be the guys who start against San Jose?
MB: Well, that's a great question. We're going to keep rolling bodies. And really right now, the left guard job, Danser came out of spring and had a pretty good grip on it. We want to get Matt Bentler back in the fold and give him a chance. He's a fifth year senior and he's earned the right to deserve that. As soon as he can get healthy and get on the field we're going to put him on the field and see if he can battle for it. He's still not at a point where he can handle movement back from that injury, so he's doing everything he can. You'll see him out here doing some individual but then the trainers and strength staff will take him and really work the hell out of him.

Do you have a timetable for when you'd like to get him in pads?
MB: Yesterday. No, that's in the trainers hands and they'll get him out there as soon as he's ready to go.

What about the other two spots, break those down for us.
MB: So Sam Schwartzstein and Khalil Wilkes are going to battle it out [for the center job]. Right now, they're trading every other practice, going with the ones, and I think that's the fairest way to do it, get some continuity, and least for the day. You know, we're far from having five people that we're ready to gel together, but the nice thing is you have a bunch of smart guys who have played some ball together. Not in games, unfortunately, but they've been together for a while, so their calls and communication are pretty good. We'd love to get that thing solidified so we can gel it as soon as possible, but we're going to let these battles sort.

If someone doesn't separate himself, then you have to let it play out…
MB: That's really what we want. I don't know if you've talked to Coach Shaw, but I mean, that's what Coach Shaw keeps telling them. We're all telling them hey, grab that job and never let go. Great opportunity, and really where we're harping it is the right tackle position. One of those guys, golly, whether it's Tyler [Mabry], because he's a fifth year senior and wants it so dang bad that he's going to grab the job, or a guy like Cameron Fleming or David Yankey, who had great summers and kind of changed their bodies, they have bright futures, whether it's now or later. We'll see. We're going to let those battles work themselves out.

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