A look into OC Matt LaFleur’s offensive staff
Name: Mike Sullivan
Role: Offensive Assistant
NFL Coaching Experience: 15 seasons
Positions Coached: Assistant Offensive Line Coach (Cleveland, 2001-2004), Offensive Line Coach (Cleveland, 2007-2008), Offensive Line Coach (San Diego, 2009-2012), Offensive Line Coach (Cleveland, 2013) and Assistant Offensive Line Coach (Tennessee, 2014-Present)
Collegiate Coaching Experience: Graduate Assistant (Miami University, 2000), Offensive Line (Western Michigan, 2005-2006).
Coaching Track Record
Mike Sullivan’s NFL coaching career started in Ohio. Sullivan, a former NFL offensive lineman, assisted Offensive Line Coach Larry Zierlein from 2001-2004.
Sullivan and Zierlein were members of Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians’ staff - a group that included ex-Titans OC Terry Robiskie. HC Butch Davis had a solid group of coaches - some of whom would have successful years as NFL coaches. Arians, Todd Bowles and Chuck Pagano eventually became head coaches themselves.
Cleveland’s last playoff berth was in 2002 under Davis’ staff. During Sullivan’s time with the Browns, he helped coach Pro Bowl OL and Super Bowl Champion, Shaun O’Hara - who signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent. Unfortunately, the bulk of O’Hara’s success - as has been the case for some - took place once leaving the Land.
Sullivan left the Browns organization following the end of the Davis-era. He returned to Cleveland in 2013 under new HC Rob Chudzinski. Sullivan’s working relationship with Chudzinski began in the 2004 season in Cleveland. Chudzinski served as the Browns Tight Ends Coach.
Chudzinski, who was going on his third stint with Cleveland, would only last one season following a 4-12 finish in AFC North.
Prior to reuninting with Chudzinski in Cleveland, Sullivan worked with him in San Diego. Under HC Norv Turner, Sullivan worked with fellow Offensive Line Coach, Hal Hunter, as a position coach for the offensive line.
Turner was able to post a 13-3 record - the second best record in the AFC behind only the Colts - and tied for second with the New Orleans Saints for second best record in the league. The Chargers season ended with a disappointing loss to the New York Jets in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
Sullivan coached OG Kris Dielman to second team All Pro Honors. Dielman would earn a Pro Bowl nod the following season, but the Chargers would fail to reach the post season. In fact, San Diego would remain out of the playoffs for the remainder of Sullivan’s time with the team.
2014 marked the beginning of the short-lived Ken Whisenhunt-era in Nashville.
Sullivan was hired to assist Offensive Line Coach Bob Bostad in 2014. Bostad would remain the coach of the offensivel line for two seasons.
In 2014, LT Taylor Lewan was the Titans first round selection. Sullivan has been with the team since Lewan’s rookie year and has witnessed first hand the growth and maturity that contributed to Lewan becoming an elite talent.
Sullivan’s first two seasons in Nashville each ended with last place finishes in the AFC South. After some coaching shakeup, Sullivan hung around and assisted HOF Offensive Lineman Russ Grimm. Grimm helped the Titans’ offensive line transform from one of the leagues worst to arguably the top offensive line in the 2016 regular season.
Although the 2016 Titans fell short of a postseason berth, the team managed to reach the playoffs the following year and earned a road win over Kansas City. Grimm retired following the 2017 season amid coaching staff changes.
After the smoke cleared, Sullivan remained as one of the few survivors post-Mularkey.
With the number of changes to the offense in general - combined with the additions of depth at offensive line during free agency - keeping Sullivan on staff made sense. His established relationship with the offensive line group will help the team transition into the new offense.
Moreover, Sullivan’s experience in working with the offensive mind of Turner provides him with the insight that may help him explain some of the “newer” concepts. Turner’s offensive style involved working with sophisticated tight ends that had reliable set of hands that could also be used based on their individual versatility.
Turner’s offensive designed involved forcing a team to defend the entire field - shades of Don Coryell. Will LaFleur’s offense feature similar concepts? It is probable. Sullivan’s coaching experience in diverse offensive will aid tremendously. He will help Offensive Line Coach Keith Carter inject new concepts/techniques in the trenches.