In one of their offseason Zoom meetings, the Washington Football Team’s offensive linemen couldn’t believe what they were seeing. They knew their new position coach, John Matsko, was intense and detail-oriented, but now he was teaching them technique with grainy, black-and-white practice tape from the 1970s. The linemen on screen looked about 250 pounds, smaller than any of them had been in years.

This wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows Matsko. In his 29-year NFL career, he has earned a reputation as one of the league’s top line coaches with a fiery personality, encyclopedic knowledge of old game film and vigorous focus on preparation. He has embraced the unorthodox: For his pre-walk-through walk-throughs in 2008, he enlisted Baltimore firefighters to play scout-team defense.

“If those guys messed up, he’d get on their [butts] too,” said Willie Anderson, a former Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman and current skills trainer. He laughed. “He’s a smart man and a good teacher, and everything’s life-or-death. If you use the wrong foot on a [protection scheme] in walk-through, it’s life-or-death.”

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