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Bills Coaching Candidate Report: Russ Grimm

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

With the Arizona Cardinals eliminated from the playoffs, the Buffalo Bills can now talk to (and hire if they both sides so desire) Arizona offensive line coach Russ Grimm. Grimm has served in that position since he was a finalist for both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cardinals head coaching jobs in 2007.

It's been widely reported, most prominently by Allen Wilson and WIVB, that Grimm's interest in the position is somewhere between lukewarm and non-existent. The Bills have already been turned down officially by Brian Schottenheimer, and reports indicate Jim Harbaugh rebuffed the Bills as well.

Playing Career
Grimm, 50, is a Hall of Fame finalist this year for his play as a guard on the vaunted Washington Redskins offensive line, coined the "Hogs."  That offensive line is so revered in Redskins nation that SB Nation's Redskins blog was christened "Hogs Haven."  Grimm opened up holes for four Super Bowl teams, winning three (including Super Bowl XXVI against the Bills). From 1984-86, Grimm was named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams and was also part of the 1980s All-Decade team.

Coaching Career
Since hanging 'em up in 1991, Grimm has been coaching at the NFL level. The first stop was back in the same building, as he joined the Redskins' staff as tight ends coach, first as a member of Joe Gibbs staff. When Gibbs retired, Grimm was retained under one-year coach Richie Petitbon, a Gibbs assistant. When Norv Turner was hired to replace Petitbon, Grimm was also kept as TE coach and transitioned to offensive line coach in 1997. In 2000, Turner was fired, and Grimm left the only NFL organization he had even known to join the Pittsburgh Steelers and Bill Cowher as offensive line coach.

Despite not making the playoffs from '98 to '00, the Steelers made the playoffs in four of Grimm's first five seasons.  Known as a team that liked to grind it out, Grimm's persona fit well in the blue-collar town and with the team. His offensive lines helped pave the way for top-ten rushing attacks in six of his seven seasons in Pittsburgh, topping the league in his first year. The Steelers rushing attack was successful even with three different starting quarterbacks under center; Kordell Stewart, Tommy Maddox, and rookie Ben Roethlisberger. When DIck Jauron was fired from Chicago in 2004, Grimm was considered a strong candidate to replace him. Following his unsuccessful interview, Grimm was promoted to assistant head coach under Cowher.

After the 2006 season, Bill Cowher announced he was stepping down as head coach. Grimm was a finalist for the job with Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin. After being passed over for the job, both Whisenhunt and Grimm interviewed in Arizona, with Whisenhunt beating out his colleague. The new coach quickly hired Grimm to be his assistant head coach and offensive line coach, the same position he had in Pittsburgh. In each of his seasons with the Cardinals, the team has given up 28 sacks or less despite dropping back to pass over 600 times each year. To put that in perspective, Trent Edwards was sacked 23 times in 8 games this year.

Blue Collar Mentality
Perhaps the biggest positive amongst Bills fans for hiring Grimm is his persona as a blue collar guy with a hard work ethic and a grinder's mentality. Anecdotes of his personality abound, and I'll share two to inform you of the type of guy Russ Grumm is. During his playing days, Russ would frequent a bar, and one night before practice had dinner there.  During practice later that evening, a little worse for the wear, the lineman regurgitated a whole hot dog. The Hog, in name and now in action, picked up the wiener, blew it off, and ate it again

The other involves teammate Mark May describing a 1982 Christmas party:

I iced down a keg of beer and stationed it on the landing between the first floor and basement. Russ turned the landing into his headquarters for the evening. He grabbed a chair and a Hog shot glass (a 60-ounce pitcher) and parked his butt on the landing next to the keg. Except for an occasional trip to the bathroom, we didn't see Russ on the first level all night...

So as May goes on to describe, "He was a blue collar stiff and proud of it."  That fits the fabric of Buffalo well.

Final Word
While I don't have any awesome quotes from the bloggers at Revenge of the Birds or Behind the Steel Curtain about Grimm, I'll share some of their prior thoughts on the OL coach.  ROTB says Grimm "has been a top candidate for a head coaching position for several years now, and this could be his farewell. In my mind that may be the biggest question mark heading into next season. Grimm has solidified Arizona's offensive trenches." 

Grimm has been a finalist in at least two head coaching spots and is widely regarded around the league as a top assistant coach just waiting for a shot at the top seat. The Bills may present him with the opportunity, but will he take it? That's the only question that remains to be seen.