“A heck of a football coach. He's an awfully good football coach,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said at the Scouting Combine on Wednesday. “Great technician, great relationship with the players, works hard, enthusiastic. I can't say enough positive things about Coach Solari.”
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Despite that track record, the 60-year-old jumped at the opportunity to join the Packers as the assistant to offensive line coach James Campen. “You get a chance to come to the Green Bay Packers, a great organization, and it’s an outstanding offensive staff,” Solari said. “That was a key thing for me in making the decision is the people. I really know Mike McCarthy and that was a key component this time around. So, that was the most important and Mike was able to allow me to come up here and meet the staff, and it was great. It’s an outstanding staff, it’s an outstanding group of men and coaches.”
Solari replaces Steve Marshall, who was hired to be the Jets’ offensive line coach after spending one year in Green Bay. With Campen and Marshall, the Packers fielded one of the NFL’s top offensive lines. Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang formed the best guard duo in the league, right tackle Bryan Bulaga had a big bounce-back season after missing the past season-and-a-half, 2013 fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari is an ascending talent at left tackle and fifth-round rookie Corey Linsley emerged as a long-term starter at center.
“I’m still kind of learning,” Solari said of his personnel last week. “I’ve only been here a few days so we’re looking at film and working with the offensive staff and excited about it. Really don’t know a lot yet. Looking at some cut-ups, James has done a great job with them. I like the way they work together.”
One strength of the Packers’ offensive line was their availability. Four of the five linemen started all 16 games and Bulaga missed only one. It’s that continuity that is a hallmark of the best lines, Solari said. And it’s that continuity that could be challenged with Bulaga headed toward free agency.
“I think the key thing is the unity,” Solari said. “That’s the most important thing for an offensive line. Sometimes, you have to have some fortunate and stay healthy. Once in a while, a player’s going to miss a game or two but it’s that unit together working as one. And the most important thing is that unit working as one, the trust, the accountability to each other. It’s really exciting as offensive lines come together throughout the season.”
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