by Michael Kelley
September 20, 2004
The NFL has been concerned about the drop in scoring the past few years and in the off-season they even changed some rules hoping to increase scoring. So far it has not worked. The officials are calling more pass interference penalties, but scoring is still down. Why is that? Here is one possible explanation; the offensive lines in the NFL are terrible.
“The worst period ever for offensive line play? I completely agree," said NFL Network analyst Glenn Parker, who was an offensive lineman in the league for 12 seasons. "It’s just pitiful. There are so few decent offensive linemen now.” I am sure you have seen some of the NFL games this season and the offensive lines just look awful. The Miami Dolphins have an offensive line that may be one of the worst of all time. They can’t block anyone. Other teams are having similar problems. Why are offensive lines so bad now? Parker has his opinion saying, "First of all, I don’t think you develop real skills running the West Coast Offense. The ball is out quickly and you’re not getting guys who can really play, just people who can stick their man for one or two counts. Then there’s the traditional reason, free agency causing people to move around so much and destroying the continuity. You used to come to the line and you had one of two calls to make, and guys were able to make adjustments off that themselves. Now every call has a name. After a while the defensive linemen catch on. I mean you call a ‘swoop,’ and they can figure it out. OK, this is the way I’m gonna be blocked." Parker is not the only one that has a strong opinion on the rotten offensive line play. Mike Giddings, director of Pro Scout, said recently, "Linemen are just too big and fat. A lot of them aren’t in shape until October. There’s so much money tied up in players now, with all those millions in guaranteed contracts, that the coaches are afraid of working them too hard. They’re afraid of getting people hurt. So they’re coming out of camp not ready to play. And then they face defensive guys who are just too damn fast. There’s all this money pressure on coaches. If they get one of these high priced guys hurt, then that’s a $15 million hit on the club’s budget. Some people seem to care more about saving money than winning games."
It is really getting bad in the NFL today. Coaches should have seen this coming. The NFL is so concerned about being flashy that they have forgotten where everything starts, up front. If you don’t have a solid offensive line, all the stars in the world playing the key positions won’t matter. The Colts have a super offense, but it is not only because of Manning, James and Harrison. Their offensive line gives Manning time to throw and they open holes. Very few other teams have lines that can open holes or protect the quarterback. I remember when offensive linemen were a premium NFL draft selection. The Raiders were very intelligent this season drafting Robert Gallery with a high pick. Perhaps more teams will start discovering that to win in the NFL you first need to score, and to score you need to have a good offensive line.