EDIT: folks, I'm sorry, but blogger keeps mysteriously eating the links. They are:
Star-Tribune article: http://blogs.startribune.com/vikingsblog/?p=2474
Killer Kowalski at mlive.com pointed out a little tidbit in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. It's a quick little interview/article with Jared Allen, talking about his relationship with the Lions' new defensive line coach, Bob Karmelowicz. Go ahead and check it out; I'll be right here.Now, I should not have to remind anyone reading this that Jared Allen had an unbelievable 2008: he racked up 14.5 sacks and 54 tackles, and was the lightning rod atop a mountainous Vikings defense. It used to be that you could simply pass over the Williams Wall, but suddenly that wasn't the case. Allen singlehandedly shrunk the field for opposing offenses with his speed, strength, and tenacity.
Yet, 2008 was a tipping point for Jared Allen. His early career had been an almost unbroken string of success; as an up-and-comer for Kansas City, Allen flashed incredible potential and production. In 2004, his rookie year, he garnered nine sacks in just 10 starts. His second season, that sack count literally and figuratively "went up to 11" (apologies to Spinal Tap). This trend culminated with a Pro Bowl season in 2007, where he had 15.5 sacks in just 14 games. Allen had established himself as one of the premier pass rushers in the game, just as his rookie contract was expiring. Still, a cloud hung over him: three DUI arrests (one in 2002 and two in 2006) had placed him in deep trouble. Remember the "14 games" part of that "Pro Bowl season"? Allen was under the NFL's equivalent of double-secret probation: the third stage of the Substance Abuse Program. He'd appealed his standard four-game suspension down to two games in 2007. However, one more incident within two years of his last arrest (September 2006), and he could be suspended for a whole season, and be one more false move away from lifetime banishment. However, if he managed keep his nose clean until that two-year period was up, his slate would be wiped clean. The Chiefs decided they couldn't roll the dice on that much guaranteed money for that much risk. They franchise-tagged Allen, and traded him to the Vikes for a first, two thirds, and a swap of sixth-round picks. Moreover, Allen got an enormous contract extension at the consummation of the trade: six years and seventy-two million dollars. The Vikings were paying him an awful lot of money to ensure that people would continue to call them "Super Bowl favorites", no matter how many years in a row they play .500 ball.
Yet, despite (or perhaps because of) all the pressure, Allen had a tough time getting going. After five games, Allen had just two sacks--and for a guy used to more than a sack per game, that wasn't cutting it. He called up his former position coach, Bob Karmelowicz. It's tough to tell exactly what happened here--Karmelowicz was hired by then-new Texans head coach, Gary Kubiak, to enthusiastic response. After one season as the defensive line coach, Karmelowicz was reassigned to "Special Assistant to the Head Coach". Whether this was a promotion, or a demotion, I can't divine. Either way, Allen paid out-of-pocket to fly Karmelowicz up to Minnesota every Tuesday for one-on-one coaching. I have amusing mental pictures of Allen's mom trucking him around in a minivan, his head bent up against the ceiling. "Goodbye dear; have fun at pass rushing today! Make sure you work hard and listen to your teacher!" It's eyebrow-raising, to be sure: a professional football player paying to be coached, when the team is both paying him millions to play, and paying other coaches millions to coach him. Yet, Karmelowicz made an instant improvement in Allen's game: Allen recorded 12.5 sacks in the last eleven games, terrorizing other teams on his way to his second straight Pro Bowl and the NFC North crown. The whole story is really unusual; nfl.com's Adam Schefter wrote about it in a disturbingly-similar-to-the-Star-Ledger-piece blog entry back in December.
Karmelowicz, at first, seemed like one of the several "buddy hires" on the Lions' roster: Gunther's old DL coach from the "glory days" in Kansas City, who happened to not have anything better to do. Interestingly, however, Karmelowicz has also coached at LSU and Arizona State, which links him to multiple members of the offensive staff as well. It seems as though he'll be a really natural fit in terms of the culture Schwartz & Co. are trying to build. Moreover, the Jared Allen story speaks volumes about what Karmelowicz can do as a teacher, motivator, and defensive line coach. I cannot wait to see what this guy does with White and Avril, let alone any linemen we choose to draft.
This is one of the things that's hard to see from our perspective, a reporter and an Internet away from anyone who really knows anything about these guys. We see two or three sentences about an assistant coach guy and go, "Oh, right, he worked with so-and-so back in the day. *sigh* I wanted someone good." The reality is, we know effectively nothing about these guys except what we see on the field on Sundays. And what this guy puts on the field on Sundays is usually great.