RENTON — If the old adage is true, if football games really are won by the big guys in the trenches, then regardless of the outcome of today’s Seahawks-Saints game, Snohomish High School can claim a little piece of an NFL postseason victory.
In a quirky subplot to today’s NFC divisional-round playoff game, both the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints employ offensive-line coaches who are graduates of Snohomish: Tom Cable in Seattle, and Bret Ingalls in New Orleans. Ingalls, a 1978 graduate, and Cable, Class of ‘82, just missed being teammates for the Panthers, but have plenty of shared history. When Ingalls got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant at Idaho, Cable was an offensive lineman for the Vandals. And when Cable became the head coach at his alma mater, Ingalls was the Vandals’ offensive coordinator from 2000-2003.
And while it’s something of an oddity that these two coaches will be on opposite sidelines with a trip to the NFC Championship game at stake, it’s hardly an accident that Snohomish High School, or the county in general, produced two more coaches of this caliber. Both Ingalls and Cable played under Dick Armstrong, one of the most successful high school coaches in state history, and their careers have been shaped by names such as Erickson, Gilbertson and Price, coaches with local ties who went on to successful college and NFL careers.
“Fundamentals, first and foremost, but they also taught us how to strain,” Cable said when asked why so many from the area have succeeded in coaching. “There’s a lot of guys who talk about toughness or who think they coach it, but when you can get kids to buy into straining, to going further than they think they can, they’ll do something really cool. That’s something that was put in all of us by Dick Armstrong and Keith Gilbertson Sr. and Keith Gilbertson Jr. You didn’t have a choice; You were going to work hard or you weren’t going to play. If you can’t handle it, too bad for you, we’ll get someone who can. That was the mentality.”
Ingalls, who through a team spokesman declined to be interviewed for this story, stating a desire to stay in the background this week, is in his first season as New Orleans’ offensive-line coach after spending the previous four as the running backs coach. He is hardly a novice when it comes to coaching linemen, however. In fact, in that first job at Idaho, when he worked under head coach and Everett native Dennis Erickson, Ingalls worked with the offensive linemen, including Cable. He also served as an offensive-line coach during stops at San Diego State and Northwestern, and has talked offensive strategy with Cable plenty of times over the years (though Seahawks fans certainly hope Cable didn’t pass along too much knowledge).
“He’s a great football coach,” Cable said of Ingalls, who was a standout running back before his college career at Wichita State was cut short by a neck injury. “And he’s also one of the greatest players to ever come out of Snohomish.
“We’ve always talked about offense, both of us being offensive coaches, so it’s always been part of our discussion. He’s a terrific mind, a terrific coach, really.”
And like Cable, Ingalls learned the importance of fundamentals as far back as his high school days. Ed Lucero, who spent 31 seasons coaching Snohomish offensive linemen, including Cable, has a pretty simple answer for why the region produced so many players who in turn became successful coaches.
“(Former Snohomish and UW standout turned NFL first-round pick) Curt Marsh asked me one time, ‘What is it about Snohomish that makes us have ever-present good line play?’” Lucero said. “I told him, ‘If we were playing for the state championship, the week we prepared for that game, we would do the same things we did the week of the very first game of the season.’ We were almost boring with how consistent we were.”
With the solid foundation of hard work and consistency Ingalls and Cable built during their high school days, it’s hardly a surprise that two more coaches from Snohomish County have found themselves on NFL sidelines, coaching for two of the league’s best teams.
Herald writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.