He is colorful.
He is animated.
He is candid.
He is everything you would expect from the son of Italian immigrants raised in the Boston area, an in-your-face type of guy who will never hesitate speaking his mind and will do so in whatever colorful language the moment demands.
This in a nutshell is Dave DeGuglielmo, the offensive line coach of the Miami Dolphins whose week-to-week challenges this season have been as imposing and consuming as just about any member of this coaching staff.
Last Sunday against the Redskins, the Dolphins used their fourth different starting offensive line combination in five games. Think about that. Think what DeGuglielmo — affectionately known as Coach Guge — must be going through every week. Cut and paste. Paste and cut. One player is injured; another steps in.
It is remarkable how he has been able to adjust, but if you look closer at the path DeGuglielmo has traveled you’ll see a man who has spent a lifetime adjusting to a variety of challenges, coaching 13 years in college and 14 in the pros.
This, in fact, is his third stint as the Dolphins’ offensive line coach, in this case replacing Pat Flaherty shortly after training camp began. He was initially brought in as an advisor to Brian Flores. Now he has one of most important roles on the staff.
“I really like it here,” said DeGuglielmo. “I’m like a stray dog. They keep feeding me and I keep coming back.”
There’s that sense of humor again, something DeGuglielmo will turn to when you least expect it.
“He’s hilarious,” said veteran center Daniel Kilgore.
DeGuglielmo, for instance, has nicknames for each of his linemen. Sometimes he gets real creative like when he calls rookie offensive lineman Michael Dieter “a bag of milk.”
“Think about it,” said Kilgore. “That’s a great description.”
Not too great, though, when he calls Kilgore “old man” or sometimes “mountain man.” Though he knows that’s just Guge being Guge.
Then there’s the historical side of DeGuglielmo like when he shows clips to his players of some of the best offensive linemen in NFL history. Showed them one about former Patriots All-Pro John Hannah. And another that featured former Bengals’ All-Pro Anthony Munoz.
“Tried to show them what greatness looks like,” he explains. “Can you believe they hadn’t heard of them?”
And, oh yes, there’s one other side of DeGuglielmo we have yet to really touch on, a side that his players seem to have embraced as well – as much as you can embrace a kick in the butt. He can be brutally hard on his players, demanding that things be done precisely the way he wants it. Just as that sense of humor can quickly appear so can that Italian fuse.
Guard Evan Boehm played for DeGuglielmo last year in Indianapolis, which is a large reason why he is now with the Dolphins. You take care of Coach Guge and he’ll take care of you. Sometimes he’ll do it with a smile; other times with a scream. Either way, the message is usually received loud and clear.
“What you see is what you get,” Boehm said of his coach. “He’s the same person 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He’s intense. He gets after it. He demands perfection. He makes practice 10 times harder than a game. He’ll kick you in the ass and pat you on the back, but I think he’s best known for kicking you in the ass.”
He’s been doing a lot of that lately, what with so much turnover on the offensive line and so little time each week to adjust and react. Consider what’s it been like:
The team’s best offensive lineman, left tackle Laremy Tunsil, was traded to the Houston Texans for a treasure trove of draft picks about 10 days before the season began.
Jesse Davis, the most versatile of his linemen, has missed time with an elbow injury.
As a result of the injuries, sixth-round pick Isaiah Prince got his first start a few weeks ago against the Chargers. Coach Guge was asked recently why he started Prince at right tackle. The response: “As opposed to me playing right tackle?” Funny man.
Last Sunday against the Redskins, it became four different lineups in five games when Davis returned from his injury.
Could it be five out of six games with different lineups on Sunday at Buffalo? There’s certainly a chance of that with Kilgore missing Wednesday’s practice due to a knee injury sustained late in the game against the Redskins.
“When we say we have a long way to go, that’s an understatement,” DeGuglielmo said.
But progress is being made. Every day. Every practice. The hope is that a clear starting five can emerge and that some cohesiveness can develop that just wasn’t possible amid all the early season changes. The hope is that DeGuglielmo can get the most out of these players just as he has done so often through his coaching career.
Talk to each player and it is clear the type of impact Coach Guge is having.
“I’d love to play for him for the rest of my career,” said Kilgore.
When you get right down to it, what more do you really need to know than that?