Okay, I admit it that I am a former lineman and still have dreams of playing on the Redskins' offensive line. That aside, I am sick of the label "skill positions". The label is reserved for the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and well basically everybody EXCEPT the linemen, namely the offensive line. Why is that? I will tell you why, the interior line isn't pretty and it isn't glamorous. To say the men that play there are not skilled is as absurd as saying I would make a good gymnast. The consensus belief is that the offensive line is occupied by no-necked, non-athletic fat guys who are there due to their size, not their ability to think. I beg to differ, my friends.
Now there was a day that linemen fit the previous definition but that day has come and gone. Now the line is filled with linemen on both sides of the ball that look like they are chiseled out of granite. They are very athletic and with the complexity of not only the offenses but also the defenses in this league you have to admit that they are indeed intelligent. Yes, there are still some fat dumb guys in the league but they are not successful and are a dying breed.
I guess what bothers me the most is that without the offensive linemen and the job they do allows the "skill players" to make it on to ESPN and to fill the countless other highlight reels. They show the quarterback stand in the pocket and chuck the ball down the field and they show the receiver haul in a catch and drag his feet to stay in-bounds. Whoa!! Look out everybody. Give me a break. What is not shown, is the battle being waged in the trenches between a group of men trying to rip the head off of the quarterback, and a group of men sworn to protect their quarterback. This is where the true battle is waged and where every game is won or lost. Think about this for a second, how many touchdowns does the quarterback throw if he is getting decked on every play? How many yards would the running back get without the line? Or how many catches would the receivers be hauling in? Sort of eliminates the need for the Sharpie in your sock, huh? You can have your twelve different angles on a touchdown; I would just like to see some attention thrown to the line play. The only time we see the interior line is when someone misses a block, there is an injury or turnover, or there is a penalty reviewed.
The line is a brutal and unforgiving place to play. It's a place that broken and gnarled fingers are common. A place where ACL's and MCL's come to tear, and where blood and sweat is worn like a badge. A lineman's mentality is one that few can understand because few are willing to subject themselves to an occupation that involves lining up nose to nose with your opponent and trying to knock him off the ball only to do it again 50-60 times a game. All of this with very little press or recognition, and rarely a spot on ESPN. The offensive line is a thankless job but without them, ESPN would be pretty damn boring from September to January, huh?
The next time you hear someone throw out the title "skill players" or "skill positions" just think about the fact that the most critical players aren't even considered. Or better yet, the next time you drive your car, think about how good it would run without its motor. That is how important the offensive line is to any team. Be sure to point that out to the person who is applying the "skill" label. Chances are, that person wasn't a lineman.
The next time you watch a game, do yourself a favor and watch the line play. You may see a side of the game that you have never seen before. Or you can call me and we can do some one-on-one drills. Either way, you will have a true appreciation for the job linemen do and may even come to call them "skill players" too.
Be sure to come back next week and check out the view from The Cheap Seats.
This article was released on 2003-09-17.
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