Karl Dunbar ventured east from the Land of 10,000 Lakes to the Garden State in February to become the new defensive line coach for the New York Jets. It's one of those marriages made in coaching heaven.
"To end up getting a job here, I think, was a blessing. This defense ended up No. 5 in the league last year," Dunbar told newyorkjets.com recently from his first-floor office at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. "The guys are going to find out that I'm a personable type of person who comes in and works hard. I'm not going to ask them to do anything I didn't do as a player. I want nothing to interfere with them being successful in their careers."
Dunbar has shown he's just the man to enable such success. The Louisianan, who was an eighth-round pick by Pittsburgh in the 1990 draft and played for the Steelers, Saints and Cardinals, has made several telling stops in his coaching career. He had a pair of short stints with his alma mater, LSU, two years at Oklahoma State, a year with the Bears.
Then from 2006-11 he coached up the Vikings' D-line.
"The thing about the success we had in Minnesota was that I had a group of guys who were willing to work hard. When you work hard and have great talent, it shows on the field. Everybody has that opportunity in this league," Dunbar said. "If you can get your guys to buy into what you're trying to do and have the right chemistry, it helps."
Sure does. The Vikings' talent was impressive — Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, Ray Edwards and Jared Allen together for a good number of those seasons. So were the line's numbers and impact: first in the league in rushing defense from 2006-08, second in '09, contributor to a pass rush that was in the top four for three of the past four years.
The Vikes, in fact, were No. 1 in the NFL in opponents' rushing yards per game allowed for all six seasons combined of Dunbar's tenure, and they were No. 2 in that span in opponents' yards per attempt allowed.
"Rex always reminds me, 'You know who No. 1 is, right?' " Dunbar said.
That's right. The Ravens, for whom Ryan was the defensive coordinator from 2005-08, have the best yards per carry allowed in that stretch.
Dunbar's input into that Purple production was no surprise to the Jets head coach, who just happened to be Karl's D-line coach at Arizona in 1994. Small world.
"Yeah, I definitely wanted to make sure he realized that," Ryan said with a laugh about that 1-2 ranking. "But Karl's been a part of some outstanding defenses. I've known about him for a long time. Going to the pros, he's had to develop guys. He's a fine teacher. His reputation is that we're getting one of the best defensive line coaches in the game."
Dunbar's making the transition to North Jersey. His wife, Pamela, came in for a weekend and, he said, "We looked at 13 houses." His son, Karmichael, will stay home in Minnesota to finish his senior year of high school before heading off to play football at Louisiana-Lafayette. But Pamela and daughters Mickel and Nickolette will be joining him soon in his new coaching experience.
In a short while NFL coaches will be able to begin teaching and coaching again, two weeks after players report back to their teams for the start of offseason conditioning programs in mid-April.
And Dunbar will have some new pupils to work with. Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito are the grad students. Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis are the promising sophomores, while Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua and Martin Tevaseu are almost as precocious. Dunbar calls coaching this new core group of linemen "an awesome opportunity."
He's also run into safety LaRon Landry, the newest Jet who will help in his own way with the performance of the D-line.
" 'Dirty Thirty' — I love him. I was on that staff," Dunbar said of coaching on the same defense that Landry starred on at LSU. "We can talk about the same stuff, swap recipes for gumbo and jambalaya."
But Dunbar is hankering to get back to coaching and teaching his newest class.
"I've got an opportunity to reinvent myself here in New York City," he said. "It's going to be great. I can't wait to get these guys on the field and do the things that we do."