Paul McQuistan prefers to let his actions speak for him

Posted Jan 8, 2013

In a unit comprised of younger players, offensive line coach Tom Cable has leaned on guard Paul McQuistan to implement and execute his zone-blocking system that has led the Seahawks into the second round of the playoffs against the Falcons.

Center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung are the Pro Bowl anchors of an offensive line that has the Seahawks rushing toward this week’s divisional playoff game against the Falcons in Atlanta.

Breno Giacomini is one tough nut of a no-nonsense right tackle in a unit that has paved the way for the running game to average 218.8 yards during the team’s six-game winning streak, while rookie J.R. Sweezy and second-yard man John Moffitt comprised the tag-team that split time at right guard as the Seahawks were rushing for 224 yards in Sunday’s wild-card playoff victory over the Washington Redskins.

So what does that make Paul McQuistan, who has started eight games at left guard and nine at right guard?

“He’s kind of our glue, that’s the way I look at him,” offensive line coach Tom Cable said on Tuesday, when the coaches were preparing the game plan for the Falcons and most of the players also showed up at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on an “off” day to get a jump on their preparation.

“Paul has been so valuable. He has played multiple positions the last two years. He never misses a beat. It’s just that his wisdom and experience are so valuable for those young guys in there. So he truly has been the glue in that room, without a doubt.”

You can count Sweezy among those young linemen who have been impressed by, and benefited from, McQuistan’s football IQ.

“Paul is a great, great listener,” said Sweezy, who has made the transition from college defensive lineman to NFL offensive lineman look easier than it should be. “He’ll bring stuff up in meetings that was something somebody mentioned months ago and it’s perfect for what we’re talking about at that moment.

“He remembers everything. It’s really impressive. I’m always asking him questions about his notes, because he’s really good at taking in all the information and then putting it where it needs to be.”

You don’t hear much about McQuistan because he doesn’t have much to say when the media is around. On those rare occasions when he does talk, one-word answers are his forte. On the even rarer instances when he slips into expansiveness, you might get an entire sentence out of him.

“He’s not a big fan of the media,” Sweezy said with a smile. “But with us, he’s a character. He’s a good guy.”

But that’s more than OK, because McQuistan is a throwback player – the kind who lets his actions speak so loudly there’s no need to hear what he’s saying, as former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox always put it. The obvious comparison is Chris Gray, who never was intended to be a starter when the Seahawks signed him in 1998. All Gray did was start 145 games over the next 11 seasons at center, right guard and left guard – including a franchise record 121 consecutive starts from 1999-2006.

“That’s a fair assessment,” Unger said. “I never played with Chris, but I know him very well. Like Chris, Paul is an awesome guy and he’s been able to do a ton of stuff for us. They’ve asked him to switch guard spots a couple of times this year and he did it without a hitch.”

A couple of times? McQuistan started the first three games at left guard and the next nine at right guard. Then it was back to left guard for a game, then the right side for a game. He has started the past three games on the left side, and that’s where you’ll find him against the Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

“It doesn’t matter to him,” Sweezy said. “He’s great on either side. He’s a technician of all the positions, and that’s a credit to him.”

For that, credit the Cable-McQuistan connection for this ability to be plugged in on either side with equal proficiency. McQuistan has started 39 games in his seven-season NFL career, and 33 have come while playing for Cable. There were six games in 2007, when both were with the Oakland Raiders. McQuistan started 10 games for the Seahawks last season and then 17 – and counting – this season.

“Tom really appreciates guys that love the game and are really into it and will do everything exactly the way he tells them. Paul is one of those guys,” coach Pete Carroll said on Monday. “He’s a system guy. He helps the guys around him because he’s so smart and he understands everything that’s asked of him. His batting average is really high, and Tom likes that. He doesn’t want guys that are going to blow you off the football and then the next time they miss you.

“Paul has given continuity to a bunch of new guys that are trying to come together and he’s been very valuable to us in that regard. That, and just the familiarity, has really worked out in Paul’s favor so that he can play a lot of us.”

Cable and McQuistan arrived as almost a package deal in 2011. Cable was hired on Jan. 18, while McQuistan was signed to a future contract on Jan. 28. McQuistan’s presence gave Cable a set of familiar shoulders to lean on while installing his zone-blocking scheme without the benefit of an offseason because of the 136-day lockout.

“I’ve been around Paul a long time,” Cable said. “It took him awhile in Oakland to get it, then we let him go. When I got here, he had just agreed to sign, so it was good to get somebody who was familiar with the system.

“He certainly has been a big part in helping train everybody else.”

As well as allowing the running game to get going, and now continue to roll.

“Paul is a really, really good player,” Unger said.