Pat Ruel, the Packers assistant offensive line coach for the 2001 and 2002 seasons, has been named the offensive line coach of the Buffalo Bills.
Ruel was just one of three coaching announcements made Tuesday by the Bills, who also named Don Blackmon and Les Steckel to the staff to coach the linebackers and running backs, respectively.
"Obviously the amount of experience that these three individuals bring to our staff is the thing that may be the most impressive," said Bills head coach Gregg Williams of the group that combined has 70 years of coaching experience at the NFL or Division I level. "Our team will benefit from their expertise tremendously and immediately. The goal each offseason is to improve every phase of your organization and we feel we've done that with the addition of these three coaches."
Ruel heads to Buffalo with 28 years of coaching experience at the NFL and NCAA-Division I level. He was with the Packers for the past two seasons as assistant offensive line coach and before that spent the 2000 NFL campaign as the offensive line coach with the Detroit Lions. He began his coaching career with the University of Miami, his alma mater, first as a graduate assistant (1973) and then as offensive line coach (1974-76). He then spent time at Arkansas (Assistant Offensive Line, 1977-78); Washington State (Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line, 1979-81); Texas A&M (Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line, 1982-84); Northern Illinois (Asst. Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator, 1985-87); Kansas (Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line, 1988-9; Asst. Head Coach, 1991-96); and Michigan State (Offensive Line, 1999 and Asst. Head Coach/Offensive line, 1999).
"The biggest thing that excites me is the timing of the opportunity," said Ruel. "Across the league, the Bills are certainly viewed as a team on the rise and one with great things ahead of it. I remember looking at film of them when the Packers played them late in the season and remember thinking how much talent the team has on both sides of the football. The offensive line in particular has a strong nucleus and a great mix of solid veterans and young players. I'm looking forward to it tremendously."
Blackmon played collegiately at Tulsa and was selected by New England in the fourth round of the 1981 NFL Draft. He spent seven seasons in the NFL as a linebacker with the Patriots from 1981-87. After retiring, he immediately joined the Patriots coaching staff as an assistant and coached linebackers from 1988-90. After a one-year stint in Cleveland as the Browns linebackers coach under Bill Belichick in 1991, he was hired by Dan Reeves to coach linebackers with the New York Giants (1993-96). In 1997, he went with Reeves to the Atlanta Falcons where he spent three seasons as linebackers coach before being elevated to defensive coordinator in 2001.
"When I met with Coach (Gregg) Williams and Coach (Jerry) Gray, I was comfortable with them immediately," said Blackmon. "You always pay attention to what other teams are doing and I remember noticing their defense in Tennessee and how impressed I was by it. So it's exciting to be a part of that in Buffalo. I started my career in the AFC East and know not only about the quality of football that's played in that division but the passion of the fans for their team, particularly in Buffalo."
For Steckel, 2003 will mark his 20th season in the National Football League. He has coached every offensive position as an NFL assistant in addition to several seasons as an offensive coordinator and one as a head coach (Minnesota, 1984). Most recently, he was Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator in 2000 after spending the 1997-99 seasons as offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans. Steckel has also coached at the NFL level with the Houston Oilers (Receivers, 1995-96); Denver Broncos (Tight Ends, 1993-94); New England Patriots (Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers, 1985-88); Minnesota Vikings (Wide Receivers/Special Teams, 1979-83); and San Francisco 49ers (Tight Ends/Wide Receivers, 1978). In addition, he coached at the collegiate level with Colorado, Navy, and Brown.
"My first reaction is how thrilled I am about this opportunity," said Steckel. "I know the quality of head coach that the Bills have in Gregg Williams and also the tremendous reputation that the organization enjoys, from Mr. (Ralph) Wilson and Tom Donahoe on down. I can't wait to get there and be a part of it."
Blackmon, Ruel, and Steckel join defensive line coach Tim Krumrie as the newest members of the Bills coaching staff.