Friday, November 13, 2009

Monte Clark (1937-2009)

Monte Clark had all kinds of success in the NFL. An offensive tackle, he won a title with Cleveland’s 1964 NFL championship squad and played 11 total seasons in the NFL. He didn’t have a winning record as an NFL head coach but he managed to lead Detroit to the playoffs twice, no small feat given that franchise’s post-60’s history of failure. And of course Clark’s best known success was his six-year tenure as the offensive line coach (and later offensive coordinator) for the Miami Dolphins where he helped build maybe the greatest offensive line of all-time. Certainly the performance of that line was the key to the Dolphins’ success from 1970-1975.

A while back I gave a lot of credit to former Dolphins’ GM Joe Thomas for the all the brilliant moves the organization made in building the Dolphins’ championship teams. However, I now know I gave way, way WAAAYY too much credit to Thomas. It’s kind of embarrassing to have gotten basic facts so totally wrong (and I’ll get around to completely rewriting that earlier post at some point so I won’t link to it, just forget it ever existed!) but I’m going to get them right here. this nice Dave Hyde tribute to Clark makes it quite clear that Don Shula and Monte Clark deserve most of the credit I gave to Thomas. It was Clark who convinced Shula to sign (and start) Jim Langer (a Hall of Famer), Bob Kuechenberg (perennial Hall of Fame candidate) and Wayne Moore (a fine player). And what better evidence of Clark’s greatness as an O-Line coach than the fact all those guys were once free agents given up on by their original teams? Clark saw something in those players missed by everybody else, he got Shula to grab them for nothing and then he molded them and rest of the team’s linemen into a dominant unit.

Monte Clark’s a key figure in Dolphins history and I should also add I can't recall anybody ever writing a single negative comment about the man.


sptrfn said...

It is interesting that you mention Clark and Joe Thomas because, when Thomas took over as GM in San Fran in 1977, he dismissed Clark, even after an 8-6 record, their first winning record in four years.

Rob said...

Correct sptrfn. The Niners wanted Clark to keep coaching the team after they hired Thomas but Thomas was going to have the control over player personnel that formerly belonged to Clark. Debartolo offered him a lot more money but Clark was too principled to accept and got fired.

After Thomas ruined the Niners they had to hire Bill Walsh to fix everything (smart move). And Thomas had already been run out of Baltimore. With that track record I'm thinking Thomas couldn't possibly have played an integral role in the great personnel moves Miami made when he was there.

sptrfn said...

In some weird way, though, Joe Thomas put them on the path to being the Team of the 80's. If Thomas would have gone to Atlanta instead(I heard they offered him their GM position, but he declined, and they hired Eddie Lebaron instead), Clark would have definitely stayed on, and they may have not gotten as bad as they would have after he left.