INDIANAPOLIS — As Howard Mudd fought for his life in the intensive care unit of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich recalled a memorable interaction with the legendary offensive line coach.
Before the Wednesday announcement that Mudd, 78, had passed away from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident on July 29th, Reich spoke of the first time he had enough nerve to stand up to the grizzled coach, who was loud and expressive, to say the least.
Reich began his NFL coaching career as a Colts intern in 2006, and eventually was in charge of offensive quality control, quarterbacks, and wide receivers.
“I’ve got so much love and respect for Howard,” Reich said in a Zoom video conference call. “The one quick story that comes to mind, I was the offensive quality control (coach) and then I was the quarterback coach, so after working with Peyton (Manning), I had to go into Howard Mudd’s office all the time to talk about the run game and things relevant to the quarterback.
“I remember going into his office one time, and he had pushed me around one too many times verbally. I just finally lashed back out at him. It was a good lashing for me. You guys know me, so you can imagine for me to get this worked up and to strike back verbally was a rare instance. I let him have it.”
True to his nature, Mudd was unfazed. In fact, he was impressed.
“After I was finished, he just started laughing and he said, ‘I love that. That’s what I love to see,’” Reich said, chuckling. “He was just an old ball coach.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with him and (wife) Shirley. I just have a lot of love and respect for Howard Mudd.”
Mudd coached the Colts offensive line from 1998 to 2009, and became quite an “old-school” institution. A three-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman in a seven-year NFL career, he knew what the position required. His coaching task of getting the most out of players usually meant a lot of tough love. And it typically worked — the Colts allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL in his 12 seasons, just 218 in 182 games.
The Colts’ current offensive line coach, Chris Strausser, was a close friend of Mudd’s for years. Mudd last served the Colts in 2019 as a senior offensive assistant. Strausser shared his thoughts on Mudd in a Tuesday Zoom call.
“We're thinking about him every day,” Strausser said. “Hey, we all know that this is one tough sucker, so if anybody can pull himself out of this, it's going to be coach Mudd. And we're praying for him for sure and looking forward to him getting back and watching Colts football.”
(Phillip B. Wilson has covered the Indianapolis Colts for more than two decades and authored the 2013 book 100 Things Colts Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. He’s on Twitter @pwilson24, on Facebook at @allcoltswithphilb and @100thingscoltsfans, and his email is email@example.com.)