Rutgers football offensive line coach Pat Flaherty is unbending in his pursuit of perfection

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Even now well into his fourth decade of coaching, pat Flaherty still has pep to his step. The Rutgers football offensive line coach has seen it all and coached it all.

And perhaps most importantly for his players on the Rutgers offensive line, he has won it all.

This time a year ago, Flaherty was the only certainly in a room full of question marks. With two decades of experience as an offensive line coach in the NFL, and two Super Bowls to validate his resume, Flaherty is arguably the most accomplished offensive line coach in college football.

Replace ‘offensive line coach’ with ‘position coach’ in the previous statement and it still might ring true. Simply put, Flaherty’s resume is likely unmatched in college football, regardless of position.

But even with a storied career, no one expected Flaherty to work a miracle like he did last year.

He inherited a unit that was, arguably, the worst in college football for much of the last decade. The Rutgers line struggled at times against Group of Five schools let alone in the Big Ten.

Fast forward a year and Flaherty’s yeoman-like work was a major reason why Rutgers finished the season 7-6 and won the Pinstripe Bowl against Miami.

But last spring, there were no sure things about the offensive line. Just surety from Flaherty for the group to trust his experience.

“The offensive line last year – we started off just kind of feeling our way as a group. From day one, you know, they’ve been really locked into meetings, they want to learn, they want to learn the different techniques that we’re teaching them,” Flaherty said.

“And now it’s as a coach, it’s your job to make sure that we’re doing it with consistency day in and day out. And that’s the hardest thing for any football player is to be able to come off and just do everything and – they feel that they’re straining, but they can always strain more. And as an offensive line coach, we always preach that you can never strain enough, right? You always play it longer than your defender is what we talk about.”

Flaherty speaks with a clarity and conviction that belies the simple belief in his methods. Improvement is made, he says, through practice.

It doesn’t matter where a player is at in his career, whether college or the NFL, the art of improvement is found in repetition.

Flhaerty’s career began in 1978 at McLone Catholic High School in McSherrytown, Pennsylvania. Within two years, he was coaching the offensive line at East Stroudsburg University. The following years would see him stop at Penn State and Rutgers for seven years, before making stops at East Carolina, Wake Forest and then in 1999 for a season at Iowa.

By 2000, he was in the NFL with the Washington Commanders where he was a tight ends coach. He would end up spending over two decades in the NFL as a position coach, but he is best known for his time with the New York Giants.

Hired by the Giants in 2004, he would spend 12 years with the organization. He turned around a terrible offensive line into a group that won two Super Bowls protecting Eli Manning.

He earned the respect of the Giants locker room with his attention to detail. He didn’t have to do much to earn the respect of his players when he arrived at Rutgers, where he had worked as a consultant prior to being named the offensive line coach last year.

The players stood and applauded when he got the job.

“The first thing that came out of my mouth, I said be ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Have they adapted to me? I don’t know if they’ll ever adapt to me,” Flaherty said.

“Listen, as the years go in coaching, we are teachers – it is listen to the corrections, don’t listen to the tone of the corrections.”

His players refer to him lovingly as “old school” but there is a reason why Flaherty stays with the tried and true: It works.

And it has them coming back for more.

For Hollin Pierce, he returned to Rutgers for a final season despite being talked about as a potential selection in this spring’s NFL draft. The All-Big Ten left tackle said he decided to return to Rutgers to fine tune his game and get one more season under Flaherty’s guidance before heading to the NFL.

Part of the charm for the linemen like Pierce when it comes to Flaherty is that he can rely on his experience and cite certain examples from the NFL in coaching up their individual play.

“It’s very impactful – you know, coach Flats he’s been coaching for so many years. So the stories that he’s telling us – when he’s sharing this knowledge with us it’s incredible because it’s like he just opened up my eyes or something,” Pierce said on Tuesday.

“I just never saw it that way before. I never knew how that worked like that. And it just helps so much.”

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Story originally appeared on Rutgers Wire