/ˈɪnfluəns/[in-floo-uhns] noun, verb, in·flu·enced, in·flu·enc·ing.
I got to thinking about the Dunbar signing. Admittedly, I’m a Vikings hater but I do wish them well sometimes because my friends and family consist of a large portion of Vikings fans.
With living in North Dakota/Minnesota, sometimes I had no choice but to hear about the Vikings, their devastating run defense, and of course, the “Williams Wall”. But, what I didn’t hear about was who had built that wall. Who was the architect? We know what the wall was made of in powerful defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams. But, who supplied the mortar? Most will say it was Dunbar.
The wheels started turning to get to this point in early January. Let’s call it a “Series of Unfortunate Events”. A series of events that ultimately ended in the Jets favor, in my opinion.
It all started in Minnesota, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier promised major changes to his coaching staff, especially the defense, after a dismal 3-13 campaign in 2011-2012 season. A defense at which he was the coordinator to in years past. A defense that he helped bring NFL prominence, no, relevance to. Minnesota’s defensive side of the football the past 6 to 7 years was down-right scary, something that hadn’t been achieved since the late 60’s, early 70’s days of the Purple People Eaters.
It was rumored Dunbar was to be fired. However, it was also rumored that he was offered a job by both the Vikings and the Jets and that he was mulling over that decision. On January 7th, 2012, the Star Tribune had reported that the Vikings indeed fired Dunbar. Dunbar reacted in a phone interview with the Star Tribune following the announcement.
“This is what the wanted. Coach Frazier told me they wanted to go in a different direction. And for me, that’s fine. As football coaches, we know we’re all migrant workers and we go where the jobs are. Now, my job in Minnesota is over.”
Dunbar was adamant that he had done his job with his defensive line. “I’m a position coach,” Dunbar told the Star Tribune. “I’m not a coordinator. I’m not head coach. When I look at what I did with the Minnesota Vikings, my piece of the puzzle was to make the defensive line play as well as they could.”
Meanwhile, back in Florham Park, incumbent Jets defensive line coach Mark Carrier ultimately jumped ship to coach with the Cincinnati Bengals, a move that may have shocked some but the move made sense for Carrier, having the opportunity to coach the secondary in Cincinnati versus the defensive line in New York.
On the days leading up to the Jets official announcement on Feb 13th, 2012, it was speculated by many that Dunbar had already accepted the to be the next defensive line coach for the New York Jets.
The Dunbar signing went down in February, about a month before NFL free agency started and over two months before the start of the NFL Draft. It’s not a mistake Dunbar was plucked immediately from the coaching pool.
His resume went virtually unnoticed, with the exception of a few nuggets here and there. But, a certain coach in New York already met Dunbar as player some 18 years earlier.
**A Humbling NFL Start**
Dunbar’s first career in the NFL, like many coaches, wouldn’t come from actually coaching, but rather, from playing. Dunbar was a part of a Louisiana State University team that won 2 national titles in 1985 and 1988. He earned Second-Team All-SEC honors after recording 60 tackles and six sacks in nine games for the LSU Tigers as a senior.
In the 1990 NFL Draft, Dunbar was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 8th round, the 209th player taken overall. Though, he would never play a down in black and gold of Steelers. He played for NFL Europe’s Orlando Thunder in 1992.
Dunbar’s debut came in 1993, under the black and gold of the New Orleans Saints. He played in 13 games and tallied up 24 tackles in those games. He would play for the Arizona Cardinals in 1994 and 1995.
However, his NFL experience would play a major role in Dunbar’s coaching career. It was in 1994 that he would encounter his future boss, Rex Ryan, who, at the time, was coaching Dunbar and the defensive line in Arizona under his father, Buddy Ryan.
In his career in the NFL, Dunbar would go on to garner 27 tackles in 21 games played. His NFL career lasted only 3 seasons.
**A New Calling**
Immediately following his playing career in the NFL, Dunbar turned to the sidelines. He began coaching in High School, first getting his start at coaching the defensive line at Opelousas High School in Louisiana in 1996 followed by a year as the defensive coordinator at Beau Chene High School in Arnaudville, Louisiana in 1997.
In 1998, Dunbar coached the defensive line at the small, Nicholls State University in Louisiana for the 1999-2000 season. Editors Note: Attempts to gather defensive statistics for the 1998 Nicholls State team were futile.
For the 2000 – 2001 season, Dunbar was hired as the strength and conditioning coach for LSU Tigers. Then, in 2002, Oklahoma State head coach Les Miles hired Dunbar to be the defensive line coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
It was there that Dunbar would encounter a future piece of his coaching lore in young defensive lineman Kevin Williams.
Dunbar tutored Williams during Williams’ senior season for the Cowboys. A senior season in which Williams totaled 98 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumbles recoveries, and an interception. Williams’ season helped him get selected in the first round of the 2005 draft, 9th overall, by the Minnesota Vikings.
Little did Dunbar know that just 4 short years after coaching him in college, he’d be coaching Williams again, this time in the NFL.
**The Great Wall**
After a successful run in college football as a defensive line coach, Dunbar got his start in the pros. His first NFL gig came with the Chicago Bears in 2004. He tutored a young and talented defensive line that included 1st and 2nd round rookies Tommie Harris and Tank Johnson. During his lone season with the Bears, the Bears ranked first in total defensive.
Dunbar again went down the college ranks after old head coach Les Miles asked him to come and coach the defensive line at LSU. But the stint was only 1 season and Dunbar returned to the professional ranks having accepted the defensive line coaching position under newly hired head coach, Brad Childress.
Dunbar’s pieces of the wall were already in place. Dunbar supplied the mortar. In 2006, Dunbar’s defensive line helped the Minnesota Vikings into the record books by allowing only 61.6 yards a game on the ground, setting a team record and ranking 2nd all-time in the NFL.
Only the 2000 Baltimore Ravens were better.
In 2008, Dunbar received another piece to the wall and the Vikings traded for troubled defensive end Jared Allen. The move turned out to be brilliant. The move helped the Williams Wall become more effective with offensive tackles having to pay less attention to them and slightly more to Allen coming off the edge.
Following the 2008 season the Vikings become the first team since the AFL merger in 1970 to lead the league in rush defense for three straight seasons.
In 2009, under the direction of Dunbar, the Vikings unleashed hell on the NFL, totaling 48 sacks on the year and ranking 2nd in the league in rush defense. Under Dunbar’s tutelage, the Vikings had 3 different lineman (P. Williams, K. Williams, Allen) earn Pro Bowl honors, with Kevin Williams and Allen both earning 2009 All-Pro honors.
Also, among the highlights since 2009 is Jared Allen tying the single season sack record with 22 1/2 sacks.
**New Start, Similar Situation**
Dunbar comes to the Jets, much like he did with the Bears and Vikings before him.
No, not with fact the the Jets have had a defensive line in place that has ranked near the top the past few seasons in rush defense but with the fact that Dunbar will have some new, young toys to play with, including last year’s first round draft pick, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and this years first round draft pick, defensive end Quinton Coples.
Wilkerson showed flashes last year and Rex Ryan, the only coach to attend Quinton Coples pro-day, like Coples’ athleticism for a big man. With Dunbar and Coples, the Jets figure to use more 4-3 fronts versus the traditionally used 3-4 front.
Among the incumbent starters Dunbar will work with are nose tackle Sione Pouha, blue-collar defensive end Mike Devito.
Dunbar has a lot of pressure riding on him in his first year with the team. It will be up to him to mold this defensive line into the group Rex Ryan wants to see on the field. There were knocks on Coples that he took plays off in college and it will be up to Dunbar to motivate and keep the fire burning in Coples.
Based on his past, he shouldn’t have a problem. All he’s done is influenced and brought out the most in players at every level. You can’t argue results. That’s what Dunbar brings to the table. The Jets are lucky to have a coach with Dunbar’s pedigree and talent.
I guess one man’s trash truly is another man’s treasure.