Raih took unconventional path to Packers

Weston Hodkiewicz
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The Packers promoted David Raih to assistant offensive line coach this week.

Mike McCarthy couldn’t make up his mind.

The Green Bay Packers coach, wrapping up interviews for an entry-level position on the coaching staff, was undecided about whom to hire after extensive talks with Luke Getsy and David Raih. The two young coaches were locked in a virtual tie following hours of questions, film breakdown and evaluations.

After conferring with his coaches, McCarthy eventually brought Getsy on as the team’s new offensive quality control coach, but wasn’t going to let Raih get away from Green Bay. So McCarthy opened a coaching administrator position for Raih, a hungry and enthusiastic assistant at Texas Tech.

Two years later, McCarthy’s two prospects have risen to prominent roles on the staff with Getsy’s promotion to receivers coach and Raih’s elevation to assistant offensive line coach becoming official with this week’s unveiling of the 2016 coaching staff.

“David … knocked it out of the park,” said McCarthy, recalling Raih’s interview. “Coming in the next day, Luke had a tremendous interview and, frankly, when we sat around as a staff and went through both guys, everybody just felt Luke hit it a little further.

“With that, two years later, now we have two young men that have earned this opportunity and I’m excited for them. They bring a lot of energy. They’ve gained the respect of the players and now they’ll have the opportunity to coach a position and get our players to respond.”

Raih, 35, will be the first to admit his path to Green Bay was unconventional. After injuries shortened his playing career at Iowa, he graduated with a finance degree and went to work for three years as a sales representative for Zimmer Inc. He was stationed at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Raih was making good money selling hip and knee implants, but yearned for an opportunity to get back into football. That desire hit fever pitch when Raih heard about Rick Neuheisel being hired as UCLA’s new football coach and decided to roll the dice.

Raih showed up at the news conference and introduced himself to the Bruins’ new head coach. It led to a conversation in the coach’s office where Raih explained his desire to get into coaching.

What followed was an offer Neuheisel couldn’t refuse.

“He said, ‘I have all these former Bruins, I can’t hire you,’” Raih recalled. “And I simply said, ‘Let’s make a deal: Let me start working here, you pick an amount of time, you don’t have to pay me or anything, and if you don’t like what I’m doing, shake my hand and say, “David, it’s not going to work out.”’

“He looked at me and laughed and said, ‘You’re crazy.’ And I said, ‘I know,’ and so six weeks later, he hired me as an intern and that was that.”

Raih still wasn’t breaking the bank. The Bruins were paying him only $900 a month to assist the coaching staff.

“In L.A.,” Raih quipped. “Like, is that even legal? I don’t know.”

In his two seasons at UCLA, Raih assisted special teams coach Frank Gansz, Jr., then offensive coordinator Norm Chow, and worked with tight ends and quarterbacks. Raih returned to his alma mater in 2010 as a graduate assistant, assisting with the Hawkeyes’ quarterbacks, tight ends and offensive line.

He arrived at Texas Tech in 2013 as the director of high school relations and later served as outside receivers coach. It was through head coach Kliff Kingsbury that Raih learned about the Packers’ opening. Kingsbury played quarterback for New Orleans in 2004 when McCarthy was offensive coordinator.

Since coming to Green Bay, Raih has worked closely with McCarthy in his preparation for upcoming opponents in addition to assisting the offense, and more specifically, the offensive line. His two years with the Packers have allowed him to learn from James Campen, Mike Solari and Steve Marshall.

The three coaches, who will all lead NFL offensive lines next season, combine for more than 50 years of NFL coaching experience.

“Depending on your perspective of your situation, I feel so fortunate to have kind of taken a back seat the last couple years because it provides you this opportunity of learning from some incredible men,” Raih said. “The consistent has been James Campen. The dynamic of Steve Marshall and the dynamic of coach Solari is totally different experiences. I did everything I could to suck up as much information from them.”

With how competitive the NFL is, you might have thought there would be tension between Getsy and Raih after the two aspiring coaches battled for the same job two years ago, but that hasn’t been the case.

The two have grown close over the past two seasons and become valued members of McCarthy’s auxiliary coaching staff.

“Dave and I, we’ve worked side-by-side for the last two years,” Getsy said. “You could just take our plane rides home from every game. We sit right next to each other. We’re constantly throwing ideas back and forth at each other. Not only how we can better ourselves, but how can we make it better for our whole staff and our football team. Dave and I are close together. I’m excited to continue that.”

Raih was asked during his own introductory news conference Thursday about why he chose to get out of the lucrative business of medical sales to claw his way through the coaching ranks. His recent promotion with the Packers served as a vindication for his gamble.

“It’s like when the girl finally says, ‘OK, now you can be my boyfriend or whatever,’” Raih joked.

As for his decision to leave Zimmer behind, Raih has no regrets.

“On paper, it was insane, but you have to take your life and just this opportunity of your life seriously, and I do. You have to do what you want to do,” Raih said. “There’s something about being in a really competitive business, it brings out the best in you. This was it for me. Football.”

whodkiew@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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