A year ago Bengals running back Joe Mixon gave his touchdown ball against the New York Jets to New York offensive line coach Frank Pollack to thank him for his help during the biggest season of his career.
Now Pollack is going to be giving him the ball as the Bengals new offensive line coach, an announcement head coach Zac Taylor made Saturday after also giving Pollack the title of run game coordinator.
Mixon is now 1-0 as a lobbyist.
"He's an interesting man. I like his style. He gets after it," Mixon said. "The thing about Frank is that no matter who is out there on the field, we're going to run that little ball. He's committed to the run."
Mixon, the two-time 1,000-yard rusher who missed the last 11 games this past season with a foot injury, tweeted Saturday afternoon that it's a great day to be a Bengal when Taylor gave him the word of Pollack's hire.
"Frank will help us make great strides in the run game and protections," Taylor said in a new release. "He brings great technical skills in player development and his familiarity with some of our current offensive linemen will allow him to get to work right away. We interviewed several strong candidates to get the best outcome for our team. I am excited about the experience Frank brings to our offense."
Taylor, who calls the plays, made Pollack the first major change to his staff since he arrived in 2019. When Taylor hired Jim Turner to coach the offensive line, Pollack moved on to the Jets after one year in Cincinnati during the 2018 season.
Now Pollack replaces Turner with the emphasis on Pollack's expertise in the run game as Taylor, looking to take the heat off rookie quarterback Joe Burrow with a balanced attack, made Pollack his first run game coordinator.
"That's kind of what I've done at most of my stops. It's what the line coach does," Pollack said. "Zac has got some good thoughts on what he wants to do going forward and I like what I heard on how I can fit in and help in that process. We've got a really good young quarterback here. The guy's got a huge future. There are a lot of pieces here with the running backs, receivers and some good, young offensive linemen."
Pollack, 53, has played and coach in the NFL for more than two decades. A sixth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers out of Northern Arizona in 1990, Pollack primarily backed up at guard with three teams during eight seasons in the league before embarking on a coaching career that began at his alma mater in 2005.
Before coming to Cincinnati in 2018, he spent five seasons as the Texans assistant line coach, one year as the Raiders head line coach, two years as the Cowboys assistant line coach and then three years as the Dallas head man as well as serving as the Jets line coach the last two seasons.
Mixon isn't the only guy who lobbied to get Pollack back. Center Trey Hopkins, who started three straight games at three different spots for Pollack in 2018 when Mixon ran to a career-high 1,168 yards, says it's a popular pick in the locker room.
"I'm very aware of the progress we made as an offensive line with Frank," Hopkins said. "It's the way we prepared for the run game week-to-week. It will make the games easy.
"There's no standing around," Hopkins said of practice. "Some of the stuff you're asked to do is pretty hard, but once you get the hang of it, you don't realize you're doing things you need as part of your arsenal until you get in the game. And then you realize how much easier it is making your job."
In 2018, the Bengals ranked 11th in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed per game as the line also supplied Mixon's career-high 4.9 yards per carry. The Bengals, who averaged 4.7 yards per rush under Pollack, averaged 3.9 the last two seasons.
Pollack is just as happy to be reunited with Mixon.
"He bring a lot juice and energy," Pollack said. "That was a lot of fun to be around a couple of years ago and I'm looking forward to coaching him again."
When Pollack returned to Paul Brown Stadium with the Jets in 2019, the Bengals won with the help of Mixon's five-yard touchdown run. After the game, Mixon revealed he gave the TD ball to Pollack.
"I thought it meant a lot to him," Mixon said that day. "I could see some tears in his eyes a little bit. I've definitely been planning that out."
On Saturday, that ball still meant a lot.
"That was nice. That was a nice gesture by him," Pollack said. "It surprised me. Very nice to know that, I guess, I made a good, positive impact with him. I appreciate him.
"He's a damn good player," Pollack said. "He's a violent, physical runner who plays the game with a lot of passion."
Mixon, along with Hopkins, let it be known after Pollack interviewed Friday that they thought he would be a great hire. But Pollack is far from inheriting the same group.
Four linemen are left from when Pollack was first here, including Hopkins, right tackle Bobby Hart and back-up center Billy Price, the club's No. 1 pick the season Pollack was the line coach. Alex Redmond started 15 games at right guard.
But it's not so much that Pollack brings some familiarity. It's that he brings a certain mentality baked into his NFL resume.
"He's a fiery guy. He has the experience," Hopkins said. "He played. He knows what it's like going through these practices and he knows what is asked of you and what's expected of you. He carries that intensity of someone who has the experience in the room. It's contagious, it's infectious. It's everything you would want it to be."
When Pollack arrived, the Bengals were next to last in NFL rushing. With the sophomore Mixon in his first season as a starter, the Bengals moved to 21st with Mixon running up that career yardage despite missing two games with a knee scope. The last two seasons the Bengals have finished 25th and 24th, respectively. Before Burrow got hurt on Nov. 22, he had spent much of the season leading the NFL in passes attempted and was on pace to throw 680, the third most of all time. Taylor has said he wants a more consistent running game.
"Football is the ultimate team game," Pollack said. "You have to be able to do both when you need to do it. That's a recipe for success. Definitely have to be able to do that."
The careers of Pollack and Taylor have crossed at least once. They both played in college for Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan, the guru of active line coaches and father of Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. Pollack doesn't see a big overhaul, but he, Taylor and Brian Callahan are taking a long look.
"There'll be some changes. Some things will be the same," Pollack said. "You don't want to have change for change sake. Those guys have a lot of good stuff already in our offense. I'm sure there'll be a couple of things I'd like to maybe add. Working with Zac, if he feels good about it and think it's the right direction for us, that's what we'll do. Whatever we can do to make our offense better, that's what we'll do."