Coach ’em Up: Mike Waufle


As we progress through our “Coach ’em Up” series, we now turn to the defensive side of the ball with one of the NFL’s best defensive line coaches, Mike Waufle.

The Hornell, N.Y. native joined the United States Marine Corps, serving from 1972-75, before playing at Bakersfield Junior College where the Renegades won a junior college national championship in 1976. Following his stint at Bakersfield JC, Waufle played at Utah State from 1977-1978.

From there, Waufle began his coaching career at Alfred in 1979 and coached defensive backs, offensive line, and defensive line in succession at Utah State from 1980-1984. After his stay in Logan, Waufle spent time at Fresno State, UCLA, Oregon State, and Cal respectively. In 1998, Waufle made the jump to the NFL, serving as the Raider’s defensive line coach through 2003 and coaching Darrell Russell to two consecutive Pro Bowls (1998-1999). After building a dominant line that anchored a defense en route to three AFC West titles and a Super Bowl appearance, Waufle coached the defensive line for the Giants from 2004-2009.

There, he coached Osi Umenyiora (2005, ’07), Michael Strahan (2005) and Justin Tuck (2008) to Pro Bowls while his unit’s 12 sacks against the Eagles in 2007 set an NFL single-game record. The Giants lead the league with 53 sacks in 2007-a catalyst for their Super Bowl run-and tallied 42 the following season; despite his popularity amongst his players, Waufle was fired in 2009. Their 38 sacks were tied for 18th, but the dip in production wasn’t entirely reflective of Waufle’s coaching.

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Waufle returned to Oakland from 2010-2011 where their 47 sacks ranked second in the NFL his first season as Richard Seymour made the Pro Bowl both seasons. Following that stint, he was brought on by the Rams. In his first season, the Rams tied for the league lead in sacks and finished first in sacks per pass play. Chris Long (11.5 sacks) and Robert Quinn (10.5) gave the Rams their first pair of double-digit sackers since 2000 tackle Michael Brockers was named to Pro Football Weekly’s All-Rookie team; William Hayes’ seven sacks were a new career high. That same year, their ninth ranked run defense gave them their first top 10 ranking in said category was the franchise’s first since 2001.

In 2013, the Rams ranked third in sacks as Quinn registered a new franchise record 19 sacks en route to First-Team All-Pro, Pro Bowl, and Pro Football Writers of America’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors. Four other Rams recorded five-plus sacks that same season. The next year, Quinn went to his second-straight Pro Bowl after leading the Rams with 10.5 sacks. Rookie Aaron Donald was a standout beyond measure, tallying the third most sacks by a Rams interior rusher (nine) as he earned AP Defensive Rookie of the honors; he posted 11 in 2015 as the Rams finished 11th in sacks. Since 2012, no team has more sacks than the Rams.

The most impressive aspect of Waufle’s coaching ability is his ability to develop talent and incorporate young players into the game plan. Quinn doubled his sack total from 2011 to 2012 while Donald took his game to the next level last season, establishing himself as the game’s most dominant interior defender. For what he does with younger players is equally impressive as what he does with players on the back-end if their career. Waufle managed to get two year’s of top-level out of Long before being hampered by injuries, while coaching Seymour to Pro Bowls at 31 and 32 years of age. Strahan’s Pro Bowl came at the age of 34 while he recorded nine sacks in his final season (36).