Fifteen years ago, I might've said, "Heck yeah." What I desire to do right now is be the best defensive line coach I can possibly be, and I really mean that. If something else comes out of that, that's fine. If nothing else comes out of that, that's fine, too. I still have so much to learn myself, and I learn from these kids every day. I pick something up that maybe I didn't know about them or a better way to talk to them or another way to help them. That's the fun of coaching. The next day is completely different from the last one. It's a good profession.
When I heard that, I said, "Well, that's Harbs." The one thing about John Harbaugh is he is a tremendously, fiercely loyal person, and if he thinks that one of his own is getting mistreated, you're going to have to deal with him first. That's how he is, and that's what he does, and everybody knows that. It does make you feel good that he didn't agree with [the caller]. [Laughs.] It makes you feel good that he didn't say, "You know what, you're right. I wonder why does this son of a gun still has a job here." And I'll tell you this: not all coaches are like that. The words coming out of another coach's mouth at the time might've sounded remarkably different from what John said. So I took a lot of stock in that.
Did it anger you that someone would questions your credentials and work with the defensive line?
No. I'm comfortable in what I do. I'm comfortable in who I am. I'm comfortable in how I work. I do have to understand that you have to put yourself in the seat of a fan, a guy who is paying good money to come out and watch us play. He's got high expectations, and the defense comes up with 27 sacks [as it did in 2010]. "What the hell is that?" I understand that. In my younger days, it might have upset me. Right now, I'm just like, "It is what it is." And maybe he was right. Some of my [players'] performances, I wasn't too happy with. But I try not to let it get to a point where I'd be pissed off about it. I just think, "You know what? Let's go out and do some things and work a little harder."
You played guard at the University of Massachusetts. How does an offensive lineman become a defensive line coach?
I was coaching the offensive line in my first job, and then I flipped over to coach linebackers at UMass. Then I went to Syracuse to coach outside linebackers and inside linebackers there. Then in my last couple years at Syracuse, it was the defensive line. When I got on defense, I had the idea to get back on offense at some point in time. But it never happened. And I got to figure out that hey, I really like this. I kind of like this side of the ball. That was different from when I had played, but I enjoy it.
You saw the much-publicized sideline exchange between New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien in the Dec. 11 win against the Washington Redskins. Have you ever been involved in a fracas like that either as a player or as a coach?
I don't know. I know this: the sidelines are very volatile, an emotional area. Probably so, but it was probably during a time when there weren't a lot of cameras around. If you're one of the best quarterbacks in the league and you throw your helmet, somebody is going to notice that. Things like that happen when you've got two competitive people in a situation and all of a sudden, one guys says something that pushes another guy's hot button. It doesn't mean that they don't like each other. It doesn't mean that they have a big problem. They have a problem at that moment, and they get it settled. Hey, I remember losing my temper and yelling and screaming, and I remember a kid maybe yelling and screaming back. But at some point, you say, "It is what it is. Let's move on."