In the game of professional football, being a quarterback, running back or a wide receiver is very much akin to baseball: You try to accumulate stats. You could say that a 5-yard run is like a single. Pulling in a pass for a 1st down is kind of like a double. A 35-yard play is a triple for all involved and if it breaks an invisible plane, it's a home run. Increasing your stats is a positive. The quarterback even accumulates the ultimate stat - wins and losses. No other player has this ability and in many ways it emphasizes the way that we have chosen to portray and perceive this position.
If you're an offensive lineman, much like those who play golf, your purpose is to have the score of your statistics be as low as possible. No penalties. No sacks. No mistakes. The trained lineman, perhaps especially the left tackle, is one who excels by being invisible. Also much like a golfer, the game for a lineman is greatly about your hands and your feet.
The game of golf idolizes the grip. The position of the hands, the movement of the arms, the shift of the weight as one follows the course of the ‘play' - this case, of course, it is the shot, the swing - will inevitably precede the way one will play the game and whether or not one will win. One swing follows the next, leading the golfer across the landscape of the course with precision.
The positioning of the hands is equally central to the left tackle. The violent punch and the tight grip are the basic tools for controlling the power of the defensive lineman, the blitzing linebacker. The ability to maintain one's center in terms of the weight is essential. The feet also move, sifting the weight smoothing but constantly Only, for the tackle the feet must move swiftly yet in constant but very small steps.
In both sports, there is an art to movement, an almost mystical collaboration of all the parts of the body, forging them into a singularity of power. One needs to be able to move with the grace of a ballerina and yet hit with the force of a martial artist. But the left tackle needs long arms, wide hips, height, weight and a powerful upper body to fight with, a powerful lower body with which to anchor. Golfers come in all shapes and sizes.
The left tackle at the hightest level chooses to see the onrushing power of the defender as a gift. He turns it aside, letting it flow past the course of the play, or he reaches out and pulls it to himself, always keeping the gift of it's energy for himself. He knows how to lock himself into it this time, thrust it away, breaking the rush on one play on the next. His feet never stop moving until the key moment is past, the ball released or the ball carrier away.
Strangely enough, it was Lawrence Taylor who greatly rewrote the history of the offensive line. Before him, it wasn't uncommon for the left tackle to be much smaller. Consider the injury factor - 1,532 broken bones were suffered by QBs from 1980 - 2001, 77.4% of them during games. That's a lot of injuries, and in every case one or more offensive linemen failed to maintain their control of the pass rusher. You have to protect your investment. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. In the book, The Blind Side, by Michael Lewis, it was a tumultuous meeting between two giants of the football world that formed a gateway to the modern understanding of the left tackle position, and it took a left guard to make it possible.
Accoding to the book, Bill Parcells had a personal belief that would change the course of football. He believed in defense, with all of his heart and soul. "I'm a little Neanderthal", he once declared. "I think that defense is the key to any sport. That's what I wanted to coach. Not football. Defense!" He was proud of it, and for a long time, Lawrence Taylor was his proudest possession. He would set him loose on Sundays and watch him attempt to hammer opposing quarterbacks into the gridiron turf with ruthless efficiency and almost religious fervor. LT was frighteningly good at what he did, and what he did was to rush the passer.
For Bill Walsh, the perspective of Parcells' failed to excite him. Walsh felt that the most important position in the game was the head coach. It was the strategy of the offense that was the reason that he loved to coach the game. "There's just so much to offense that a coach really does have control of," he once said. "Defense is just a matter of having the personnel." These two coaches and these two philosophies would collide head to head during the 1981 season. On January 3, 1982, they met in the playoffs; Parcells' NY Giants against the San Francisco 49ers of Bill Walsh, and the decimating explosion that was Lawrence Taylor against the offensive brilliance of Joe Montana.
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[ Edited by Ronnie49Lott on Nov 16, 2009 at 10:22 PM ]