There's a reason for first-year Seahawks offensive line coach Mike Solari's repetition. Here's how Solari has helped transform Seattle's vastly improved offensive line.
In the smelliest, sweatiest corner of the Seahawks locker room, a song is playing.
It’s a Thursday, about 20 minutes prior to the start of practice, and Seattle’s oversized offensive linemen are taping their fingers, stuffing themselves into practice jerseys and giving interviews over the rattling guitar riffs and screeching vocals of angst-ridden rock band Breaking Benjamin’s 2009 anthem, “I Will Not Bow.”
I will not bow
I will not break
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I will shut the world away
I will not fall
I will not fade
I will take your breath away
Pounding out of a set of portable speakers, the chorus keeps repeating, again and again and again.
Mike Solari would approve.
Search long enough on social media, and you’ll find a 20-second video of Solari — the Seahawks’ first-year offensive line coach — giving a presentation at what appears to be a coaches clinic, wearing a 49ers polo. He’s standing next to an old projector, staring down at a piece of paper with three words printed in red ink and underlined across the top:
ATTENTION TO DETAILS
With his left hand stuffed into the pocket of his khaki pants, the lifelong offensive line coach shifted from side to side and read from top to bottom.
“Did you know people hear 50 percent of what is said? They understand 50 percent of what they hear. They believe 50 percent of what they understand. They remember 50 percent of what they believe.
“What’s that mean? You’re going to retain 6 percent of this talk.”
Therein lies Solari’s essential teaching philosophy. And how does it manifest itself in the meeting room and on the field?
“Coach Solari is a great O-line coach. Very, very detailed,” says hulking right guard D.J. Fluker, who also played under Solari with the New York Giants in 2017. “Always repeats himself a lot, which kind of gets funny at times.”
Funny, but effective. Turns out, through 42 years in coaching — and all but two of them working with the offensive line — the 63-year-old assistant has become purposefully repetitive. Every day, he brings the same energy, the same approach … and the same terminology.
Solari drills a philosophy into the subconscious of his players until it becomes instinct.
“It’s very important. That’s why I do it,” Solari says after Thursday’s practice. “They hear it. I like to repeat things in the sense of highlighting things for them to retain, and things that are very important for that game plan that week, that day – what to learn and comprehend.
“The most important thing is that there is complete understanding.”
And so, in the quest to achieve complete understanding, a dictionary of Solari-isms has been developed.
Pound the arches: to get your feet in the ground and continue to drive through the whistle
Be on the snap count: to remain focused on the quarterback’s count at the line of scrimmage
Don’t ever get bored: to remain active and motivated in meetings and in practice
Make it a great day: to, well, you can probably decipher this one for yourself
“I could go on,” says left guard J.R. Sweezy, rattling off words and phrases as Breaking Benjamin blares in the background. “There’s a lot of them. There’s a lot of them.”
Still, Sweezy and his fellow offensive linemen understand the reasoning behind the repetition.
“He’s always bringing the juice, always keeping us into it and always in a good mood,” Sweezy says. “That rubs off on us. If we’re not feeling it that day, he’s always there, so we have to go to his level.
“The repeating thing, I think they say if you repeat it three times, you’ll remember it forever. He’s kind of mentioned that to us, why he does repeat things so often. I enjoy it, man. I really do. I’ve been around a few teams and coaches and I really, really enjoy what we have going on here.”
Considering the Seahawks’ recent offensive success, what’s not to enjoy? Since adopting its current starting offensive line prior to the third game of the season, Seattle ranks second in the NFL in both total rushing yards (805) and rushing yards per game (161) and ninth in sacks allowed (9). That’s a remarkable turnaround for a unit that finished 30th in quarterback hits (121) and 23rd in both rushing yards per game (101.8) and sacks allowed (43) under Tom Cable last season.
And, to be sure, Solari isn’t the only factor in the Seahawks’ recent resurgence.
But his presence — and his repetition — has made an obvious impact.
“He really, really, really, really explains plays, techniques, everything thoroughly … and multiple times so it registers in your brain,” says left tackle Duane Brown. “He’s the best in the league at that.”
Solari may be the best in some aspects, but that doesn’t mean he’s satisfied — not even after 42 years.
“No matter where you’re at as a coach, no matter what level you’re at, you always want to learn. You always want to develop,” Solari says. “I really enjoy this game, because I’m always learning. Even at my age and even with my experience, I’m learning. I take pride in learning from the players.
“We always talk about taking things and making it better. That’s the great thing about this game. It makes you humble. Each week is a new challenge.”
It’s a new challenge, but the same refrain. The Seahawks’ offensive line — which meets the 5-2 Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday — has yet to bow; they’ve yet to break.
The same goes for the ever-energetic 63-year-old Solari.
“This is a gift,” says Solari, who has made 18 stops in his coaching career (including twice in Seattle). “This is a blessing, being able to coach at this level. It’s a blessing to be with the Seahawks, with Pete (Carroll) and with Brian (Schottenheimer), working with (assistant offensive line coach) Brennan Carroll, who does a great job with me.
“It’s great. It’s just great to be here. So it’s exciting to come to work. Every day it’s awesome. It’s awesome.”
It’s a blessing. It’s great. It’s awesome.
Solari repeated it, so hopefully you’ll retain it.