Updated: Mar 5
While reading my daily devotional Uncommon Life written by NFL Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy, the Romans 12 scripture caught my attention. In fact, the more I think of the importance of offensive line play, the louder this scripture speaks. The popularity of offensive linemen has grown tremendously in recent years. As the game transforms, so does its players.
Most of us either played or grew up in a time watching football when offensive linemen were just the big guys up front. There were a few offensive linemen who stood out but for the most part the position groups on the field held all the popularity. In recent years, with the NFL Combine broadcasted in primetime, viewers have front seats witnessing how valuable offensive linemen actually are. The Combines illuminate their strength, speed, athleticism and power.
Additionally, viewers are glued to commentators as they break down each individual performer’s statistics and attributes. Then here comes the magic, the highlights. With the highlights, the viewers see the offensive lineman creating lanes and openings for the running back to burst through for big runs. We also get to witness how nimble, strong, and athletic these guys are in the passing game as they protect the quarterbacks from rushing defensive linemen. Then it all starts to come together. At that point, offensive linemen have displayed their skill and thus their value and importance’s they key to any successful game plan.
However, whether in practice’s or game’s two things are always certain:
1: Offensive linemen are usually the first to get the blame when a play goes wrong and 2: usually the last position group to receive the credit when things goes right. How is this still the case? We all love to see those long runs and deep passes completed. The roar of the crowd; seeing the scoreboard light up. But how does that happen? After reading an excerpt in Tony Dungy’s book, I decided to conduct a mini research study on past MVP’s from both Super Bowls and College Football Championships. Consistent with the literature, my study revealed that not one MVP has ever been an offensive lineman. A successful coach fully understands that none of those MVP awards would have been earned without the guys up front. Coaches try calling Inside/Outside Zone, Counter, Trap, Power, Etc. without the guys up front. Better yet, try calling Bunch, Trips, or Doubles with the hopes of moving the chains.
How is it that the most valuable position group offensively with the most important responsibility get overlooked? Some coaches intentionally or unintentionally omit offensive linemen. Some believe that just skill players alone are enough to win. Every aspect of an offense goes through the offensive line. The ability to set the tone up front provides power to control the game. When all five guys up front are clicking together, it enhances the probability of big runs, and the long completions.
In my years of playing and teaching the offensive line position there are a few steps that I rely on to develop offensive linemen. Building up the most valuable position group is essential.