Discussing his former quarterbacks coach in Atlanta this week, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan let a little known tidbit slip out about Bill Musgrave.
Musgrave, now the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator, has a nickname.
Crediting Musgrave for his development as an NFL quarterback, Ryan let it slip.
"He's probably one of the most influential people in terms of helping me through the transition," Ryan said on the weekly conference call with the opposing team's media. "And certainly has been one of the most influential people in my short career. Musky did an unbelievable job."
Yep, Musgrave is known to the Falcons as "Captain Musky" a name he says he inherited while coaching with the Jacksonville Jaguars with now-Atlanta head coach Mike Smith.
"Started back in Jacksonville with Mike Smith when we went deep-sea fishing and ever since then I was Captain Musky," Musgrave confirmed.
To say there will be some familiarity on Sunday when Minnesota goes on the road to play the Falcons might be an understatement. Musgrave might know Atlanta's offense better than anyone outside of the Falcons locker room after spending the past five seasons as quarterbacks coach for Atlanta. Smith and Musgrave also spent two seasons together in Jacksonville.
Musgrave came to the Vikings, and shortly thereafter, the team signed longtime Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins. Minnesota wide receivers coach George Stewart worked for Atlanta from 2003-06. Meanwhile, defensive end Ray Edwards made the move to the Falcons after playing five seasons with the Vikings.
The two defenses, in particular, should know what the other offense will be trying to do. Minnesota's defense has tried to glean any possible edge it can find by consulting Musgrave.
"I know (Musgrave) and (defensive coordinator Fred Pagac) have talked about what Atlanta does, why they do some of the things that they do and just trying to get inside of their offensive philosophy," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "So, we'll lean on him quite a bit as we're putting together our defensive game plan."
Frazier expects Atlanta to have the same insight to their offense because of the Musgrave connection. With such familiarity on both sidelines, Frazier knows it comes down to one key aspect.
"Probably the biggest thing for us is to execute the things we do and do them well," Frazier said. "I don't know what wrinkles might be in the game plan, but the big thing is to execute. And with Bill's knowledge of their offense, I'm sure they'll change some things when it comes to their cadence and some of the verbiage they use. We expect that. He has been a help, but at the same time it is still your personnel matching up to their personnel."
Edwards is likely salivating for the matchup against the team that drafted him in the fourth round in 2006. Edwards had 29.5 sacks for Minnesota, but felt disrespected towards the end of his time in Minnesota after he wasn't offered the big contract extension he sought.
The 6-foot-5 athletic end found a home with the Falcons, signing a five-year $30 million contract with $11 million guaranteed. He's helped post the second-ranked run defense in the NFL, but has just two sacks this season to go with 24 tackles.
Edwards will be chasing what Minnesota hopes will become the biggest similarity between the two franchises — long-term answers at quarterback. Ryan gives Musgrave a lot of credit for developing him into Atlanta's franchise quarterback. Ryan said the two remain close, often exchanging text messages.
"He understands how to get his players to play well and I'm sure he's going to do a great job up there," Ryan said. "For me personally, he taught me so much about protections. He taught me so much about understanding the passing game, understanding the running game, understanding how to play the position, managing games, being smart, making good decisions. Really his wealth of knowledge having played with a bunch of quarterbacks, having been in the league for a long time, understanding how to organize your week, prepare, when to push back and get some rest and make sure that you're mentally fresh for Sunday. All those things Bill really helped me out with a ton, I'll be forever grateful for that."
The Vikings are hoping Musgrave can do the same thing with Ponder, along with quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson.
"I think (Ryan) and Christian are both life-long learners," Musgrave said. "Meaning every day there going to learn something, you've got to have the support around you, good offense, defense and special teams. Both of those guys can fit in and progress in that way."
Familiar foes face off with Falcons-Vikings
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