Arguably the greatest misconception in all of sports is that the quarterback is the most important member of a football team. In spite of the fact that a professional football team consists of 53 players, casual fans, as well as misinformed analysts continually declare a team’s success or failure to lie squarely upon the shoulders of the team’s most recognizable figure: the quarterback. However, I will now attempt to illustrate as clearly and concisely as possible why the offensive line is, by far, the most important area of any football team.
Making the argument as to why the offensive line of a team is more important than the quarterback simply begins with the quarterback’s necessity for an above average offensive line. Without such an offensive line, it is literally impossible for any quarterback, regardless of talent, to gain even moderate success. The reason behind this correlation is simple: on average, a quarterback needs approximately 4.5 seconds to complete a pass. For deeper passes or more complicated routes, a quarterback may even need more time before releasing the ball. However, without an efficient offensive line, the quarterback will begin to be pressured within as little time as 1.5 seconds. No quarterback can ever succeed under such conditions.
As further support to my argument, simply look at all of the better quarterbacks currently in the NFL. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, "Big" Ben Rothlisberger, all have superior offensive lines that allow them to take the time needed to complete a pass without having to listen for the footsteps of dangerous pass-rushers.
The importance of the offensive line in pass blocking is seen as clearly as ever within the confines of Cleveland. Prior to last season, the Browns as a whole were a dismal team, and Derek Anderson was merely a 3rd string quarterback without any great hopes for future success. However, with the addition of prodigy left tackle Joe Thomas to the offensive line, Derek Anderson was given the opportunity to become a star. The example of the Cleveland Browns just goes to show how a superior offensive line, and especially a great left tackle, can mean all the difference in the world for a football team.
In order to further explicate the importance of a great offensive front, one simply needs to examine the lines of teams that have made the playoffs in previous seasons. Every single team that had made the playoffs last season possessed a superior offensive line. Furthermore, the Detroit Lions and Houston Texans, both of whom were expected to be major contenders for the playoffs in the 2007 season, failed in the 2nd half of the season due to their porous offensive fronts.
For even more evidence to support my argument, simply look at the Super Bowl of the 2006 season. One of the two teams that appeared in the Super Bowl that year was the Chicago Bears, “led” by Rex Grossman. Now lets be real, Rex Grossman, at this point in his career, can’t even be considered an average quarterback. However, a powerful offensive line led by center Olin Kruetz was enough to carry the team through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl. A similar example can be seen in 2000, when the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl under the “leadership” of Trent Dilfer. However, I’m sure that even the most casual football fans out there realize that Dilfer is a below average quarterback, and did not have the talent that should logically warrant a super bowl championship. However, when keeping in mind that Baltimore had superstar left tackle Johnathan Ogden on the offensive line, it all seems to make sense. When a quarterback’s blind side is protected, they are bound to succeed.
While the aforementioned argument should already be enough to indicate that the left tackle, or offensive line as a whole, is the most important position in the game of football, I will continue to build on my already substantial argument. Along with the passing game, which is led by the quarterback, offenses also have the option to run the ball. However, no running back has any hope of succeeding without a good offensive line. Furthermore, a great offensive line can turn a moderate running back into a superstar. This argument is best supported when examining this year’s super bowl champions, the New York Giants. This year, the Giants overcame the odds in winning the Super Bowl without players that were publicly recognized to be stars. With Tiki Barber gone and Brandon Jacobs and 7th round rookie Ahmad Bradshaw manning the running back position, New York Giants fans began the season in panic mode. However, due to the presence of one of the greatest run-blocking lines in all of football, the dynamic duo of Jacobs of Bradshaw faced great success. In addition, even backup running backs Ward and Droughns had great success when called upon.
Arguably one of the greatest signs of running success through the offensive line is the yards per carry average of Brandon Jacobs, a running back who was once thought to be a short-yardage power back. In spite of his massive size and power running style, Jacobs managed to average 5.0 yards per carry, a statistic that would hypothetically place Jacobs in the Hall of Fame, should he be able to produce it repeatedly throughout his career. This statistical phenomenon was due in great part to the offensive lines’ run- blocking prowess. This just goes to show how important the offensive line is in determining the success of the running game.