Tony DeMeo

Question and Answers with Jim McNally

Question and Answers with Jim McNally
When you think about offensive line play; it’s difficult not to think of Jim McNally. Jim McNally was one of the original proponents of the modern zone blocking scheme. Some call Jim “the father of Zone Blocking”.
Jim has 28 years of NFL experience and 14 years of college coaching experience and has developed great insight in coaching the offensive line. He has had a positive impact on every team he’s coached. In 2004 with the Bills, McNally took an offensive line that had been struggling had tutored them into giving up the fewest sacks in 6 years. So McNally’s expertise goes well beyond his run blocking zone blocking but also into a great technician of pass protection.
Jim is best known for his stint with the Bengals where he turned the Bengals into the most potent rushing team in the NFL from 1980 to 1994. The Bengals got to the Super Bowl twice during that period of time.
I got to know Jim through clinics and took a lot of his ideas and used them in the Triple Gun Offense. His concepts are always evolving and he has a teaching style that is simple and easy to understand. He’s certainly one of the best clinicians around.
Tony: Jim, who were the three biggest influences in your career?
Jim: The first would be Bob Geiger. I was his GA at the University of Buffalo where he was the offensive line coach. He got me started. Then the second was Jerry Wampfler who was the offensive line coach with the Philadelphia Eagles. And third would be Howard Mudd who was really the guy who started using the technique of losing ground when zone blocking. He was the guy who really developed the technique of losing ground an opening up your hips.
Tony: Jim you’ve been in football a long time; what is your overall philosophy of winning football games?
Jim: First of all get great players. That makes things easier. You must have talent at the quarterback position. That’s the critical spot. If you can throw the ball, you have a chance. Boomer Esiason was a great quarterback for the Bengals. Then Kenny Anderson was smart and very accurate when he was with the Bengals. Then of course everyone knows you win on defense. If you have a great defense, you don’t have to do a lot offensively to win and you’re always in the game.
Tony: What is your philosophy of offensive football?
Jim: The key to moving the ball is not to have a bad play. Stay out of bad plays, use a check with me system or an audible system to stay out of bad plays. I like the Tom Moore style offense where the quarterback can keep you out of trouble and exploit a particular defense with a check. I like the Zone Play because the running back can adapt to the blocking as it unfolds. Now if the defense loads the box; your quarterback has to get you out of the run and into a pass. I would definitely have a “Wildcat Package” or some type of quarterback run package like the Jets are going to do with Tebow. The position of quarterback is changing with guys like Tebow and Cam Newton who can run and still be a pass threat. It’s different than just putting a running-back back there like they did originally.
Tony: So you like having a running quarterback?
Jim: Absolutely. Not as an every down package but to have the ability to go to a QB run style offense puts tremendous pressure on the defense and really adds to their preparation. The offense picks up an extra blocker when they use the quarterback as a runner and the defense can’t account for him. The Jets had a lot of success using Brad Smith in that role.
Tony: It’s almost like having a Single Wing Tailback on your roster.
Jim: It forces the defense to put extra people in the box which opens up the passing game.
Tony: You are known for your use of the Zone Play, tell us about your development of the Zone Play which really had a major impact on offensive football?
Jim: When I was with the Bengals, I studied The Cleveland Browns and what Howard Mudd was doing up there. They would run basically one play the entire game – the inside zone play. They would run it over and over with a tough back and no one could stop it. We were running that outside zone at that time and so we combined the Browns play with our outside zone play and our offense really took off. We were able to consistently run the ball and control the clock. We used combo blocks and adjusted our splits and taught the running back to be patient and read the blocking scheme as it developed.
Tony: How has Zone Blocking evolved since those days with the Bengals?
Jim: Now they are using more lateral movement and actually using a defensive lineman’s momentum against him with a technique called “tipping”. The offensive linemen are getting more hip to hip to prevent penetration.
Tony: Finally what advice would you give to a coach?
Jim: Always remain a student of the game. Go to as many clinics or spring practices as possible. Always see what others are doing. Try to study film every day. Find the answers yourself.
Tony: Jim, thanks for your time