A dozen years ago when Curtis Modkins was coaching cornerbacks at New Mexico, he enrolled for his second summer as an NFL coaching intern through the NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship program. He was assigned to the Dallas Cowboys and Chan Gailey. Looking back on it now it's clear that Modkins made a positive impression on the now former Dallas and current Bills head coach.
Three years later after his internship Gailey made Modkins a member of his staff at Georgia Tech where he first coached defensive backs and then running backs. They also coached together in Kansas City in 2008. Though it may have been a mentor-apprentice relationship at the start, it is not the case anymore with Gailey naming Modkins his offensive coordinator.
"Offensively, Curtis is a valuable member of what we're trying to get done here," said Gailey. "He takes some of the organizational stuff off of me so I can go do my job as being the head coach as well as running the offense and it's great to have him here and it's invaluable in my opinion to the organization that we have a guy like that."
Gailey will be handling the offensive play calling duties, but Modkins will be a part of the process. The reason why is their ability to work in concert with one another over the years has been seamless.
"The best thing about it is he and I have been together for a while and we have a unique relationship," said Modkins. "It's one in which we see the same things, so from an organizational standpoint we'll challenge each other schematically. He knows that he and I are on the same page with what we believe in."
Buffalo's head coach will seek Modkins' input on the many facets of the offense that will have to be pieced together as the weeks and months of the offseason wear on. He's Gailey's sounding board.A football confidante. Modkins is also handling Buffalo's running backs,an area of coaching wherehe's been very successful in the past.
In his one season in Arizona (2009) he helped to improve the Cardinals ground game, which had the highest yards per carry average (4.1) since 2002. The team's 16 rushing touchdowns were the most in 26 seasons. Modkins also tutored rookie running back Beanie Wells who averaged 4.5 yards per carry and finished first among rookies with seven touchdowns.
Add in his success as running backs coach under Gailey at Georgia Tech where he had two players lead the ACC in rushing in three of the five seasons he was running backs coach and it's readily apparent what Modkins and Gailey are capable of as an offensive strategizing tandem.
"We had some good players at running babck and some good players up front blocking," Modkins recalled. "We were able to have the leading rusher in that league for a few years and the year we didn't he was second and the other year he was hurt. That's what the talent there enabled us to do."
That's also what Modkins respects most about Gailey's approach to offensive football. His willingness to adapt and change to the talent he has at his disposal.
"He doesn't have a set way of doing things," said Modkins. "If this player can do something different from the last guy he had, he has no problem with adjusting to allow him to do what gives us the best chance to win. His system, there's no name for it. There's no certain way you have to do things. He's flexible enough to do that. The fundamentals are stressed, but we'll do whatever gives us the best chance. From a grassroots football perspective that's great in my opinion."
That's why when Gailey offered him the offensive coordinator position, play calling duties or not, he couldn't refuse.
"To come to an organization like this and work with Chan and Buddy (Nix) and Russ (Brandon) and work for an owner like Mr. Wilson, it's a tremendous opportunity," Modkins said. "We're here to win."
Gailey has said down the line he may relinquish his play calling duties, but for the first couple of years it appears that he intends to get things set just right on offense before turning things over. Modkins doesn't deny the opportunity to call plays is an attractive challenge, but he also realizes that's not his responsibility in 2010.
"That's not my focus," he said of play calling. "We all have a role and whatever he determines my role to be then that's what my focus is. If that happens one day then so be it. Right now I'm very thankful that we have him in the role that he has for us offensively. He's one of the best coaches I've been around offensively. I'm excited about it."