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Roland, entering his 34th year in the NFL and 26th as a league
coach, is one of the most experienced coaches in pro history. His
* The position coach for the NFL's last two all-time rushing leaders: Walter
Payton (Chicago, 1983-87) and Emmitt Smith (Arizona, 2003).
* Thirteen seasons on the staffs of two of the NFL's all-time winningest coaches: Mike Ditka (Bears assistant coach, 1983-92) and Dick
Vermeil (Eagles assistant
coach, 1976-78). He also played and coached for one of college football's winningest
coaches, Dan Devine, at Missouri (running back, 1963-65), Green
Bay (assistant coach, 1974) and Notre Dame (assistant coach, 1975).
Roland was the man behind one of the top rushing units in NFL annals, the 1980s
Bears, coaching the top two rushers for the league's oldest franchise. Ditka
hired Roland in 1983 to fine-tune Payton, who at the time stood 2,108 yards from
Jim Brown's NFL record. Payton broke the mark in 1984, but Roland might be most
proud of Payton's successor, Neal Anderson, whom Roland groomed into the Bears'
No. 2 all-time rusher. The Bears during Roland's tenure led the league in rushing
four times, and finished among the top three in seven of his 11 seasons. From
1984-88, Chicago rushed for 160.9 yards per game, went 62-17 (.785), made the
playoffs five straight years and won Super Bowl XX.
Roland also has tutored Jerome
Bettis (St. Louis Rams, 1996) and Wilbert Montgomery
(Philadelphia, 1977-78). In Montgomery's second NFL season, 1978, he rushed for
1,220 yards, more than all but four players, including Earl
and Tony Dorsett. Montgomery, who helped lead Philadelphia to Super Bowl XV,
remains the Eagles' all-time leading rusher.
In returning to Green Bay, Roland inherits Ahman
Green, the NFC's leading rusher in 2003 and second-leading rusher in Packers
history. Payton was Green's idol (Green still watches Payton highlight videos
before every game). In 2003, Green's 1,883 yards surpassed Payton's career-high,
1,852 in 1977.
His college coach at Missouri, Devine, launched Roland's distinguished coaching
career in 1974, when Devine made Roland the Packers' special assignments coach.
Devine may have been ahead of his time in hiring Roland, who in addition to scouting
college talent and coaching, also developed and coordinated some of the first
computer programs used by Packers coaches. Roland is one of seven in Packers
history to serve multiple tenures as an assistant coach (also Zeke Bratkowski,
John "Red" Cochran, Burt Gustafson, Tom Hearden, Tom
Lovat and Bob Schnelker). However, Roland's 30 years between stints is the
longest in the group.
This season will mark his 27th in coaching. After his lone year in Green Bay,
Roland followed Devine to Notre Dame (1975), then coached on five more NFL staffs:
Philadelphia (1976-78), Chicago (1983-92), N.Y. Jets (1993-94), St. Louis Rams
(1995-96) and Arizona (1997-2003). He was in private business from 1979-82, until
Ditka brought him to Chicago.
Drafted as a halfback in 1965 by both the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals and the AFL's
New York Jets, Roland signed with the Cardinals and earned league rookie of the
year honors in 1966. All-America in college, he started at both halfback and
cornerback, then played eight NFL seasons, seven in St. Louis (where he left
as the franchise's leading rusher) and one with the New York Giants. In 103 NFL
games, he rushed for 3,750 yards and 28 touchdowns on 1,015 attempts, caught
153 passes for 1,430 yards and six touchdowns, returned 49 punts for 452 yards
with two touchdowns, returned 22 kickoffs for 444 yards, and completed five of
13 passes for 130 yards and one score.
Roland lives in Tempe, Ariz., and has two sons, Johnny Jr. and James, and one
He officially will begin his Packers duties on Feb. 9. Roland replaces Sylvester
Croom, who in December became head coach at Mississippi State, the first
African-American head coach in Southeastern Conference history.
Green Bay Packers assistant coach Johnny Roland has agreed to
join the Saints and replace fired running backs coach Dave Atkins.
Roland spent 2004 with the Packers but was on the Arizona Cardinals
coaching staff from 1997 to 2003. He was also on Mike Ditka's staff
with the Chicago Bears for 10 years (1983-1992).
With the Packers
in 2004, Roland helped send both RB Ahman Green and FB William
Henderson to the Pro Bowl.
The Bears during Roland's tenure led the league in rushing four
times, and finished among the top three in seven of his 11 seasons.
From 1984-88, Chicago rushed for 160.9 yards per game, went 62-17
(.785), made the playoffs five straight years and won Super Bowl
XX. Roland mentored runningbacks Walter Payton and Neal Anderson,
and later with the St. Louis Rams in 1995 and 1996 he worked with
a young Jerome Bettis.
Roland is expected to push Deuce McAllister
to return to his Pro Bowl form of 2003. In 2004 McAllister was
injured and missed parts of four games and head coach Jim Haslett
was reportedly unhappy with McAllister's conditioning. Atkins was
fired for lack of motivation shortly after the season ended. Roland played 8 years in the NFL after an All-American career at
Missouri. He made the Pro Bowl twice and retired as the St. Louis
Cardinals' all-time leading rusher. As always keep here at NOPF for the latest.