Left Tackle: The Money Position in the NFL

Paul SalmanSenior Analyst IJanuary 19, 2008

Is Lawrence Taylor the reason left tackles are paid so much?

Today, we think of left tackle as one of the most important and prestigious positions in all sports. His job is to protect the face of a franchise and the future of a team.

However, it was not always like this.

Not until another LT, Lawrence Taylor, came into the NFL and changed how the game was played.

The end of Joe Theismann's career was anything but glamorous. When he was hit by LT, coming off his Blind Side, his leg snapped and that was all she wrote. You can see by LT's reaction; the sight was not pretty.

Some NFL coaches still did not know how to deal with such a force coming from the quarterbacks blind side, and this was 1985. In 1982, however, Bill Walsh set the blueprint for handling the blind side, and gave way for a new premier position in sports.

In Bill Walsh's offense, the quarter is required to pass often, therefore protection is key.

In 1982 against the New York Giants, whose defense was coached by a man named Bill Parcells, Bill Walsh had to come up with a scheme to help protect Joe Montana against LT's blind side pass rush.

Walsh decided to use his guard, John Ayers, to pull off and be a blocker for Montana. From the first play of the game, when LT came out of his stance to blitz Montana, he was met by a brick wall.

As LT stated later, this was the first time anyone had used a guard to block him. All LT could do was run over defenders, and John Ayers was not a man who could be run over.

This was a 270-pound man who trained in the off-season by harnessing himself to a tractor tire and hauling it through an open field.

His stifling of Taylor would continue throughout the game and at halftime the 49ers led the Giants 24-10, and Montana was 15-22, for 276 yards and two touchdowns. At the end of the game, the Giants saw their top-ranked defense allow 38 points and walked off in defeat.

After this game, Bill Walsh knew that in the next draft, he needed to get two pieces to his puzzle. He would need a pass rusher like LT, but with his first pick, he would need a left tackle who could handle a pass rusher like LT.

He understood that always using the guard would disrupt the rhythm of his passing attack, and, as Parcells noticed after the game, using the guard left the line with a hole for the middle linebacker to storm through.

Since then, left tackle has become a premier position. In most cases, it is the highest paid position on the team other than quarterback.

It is now a position where the fans know players' names, such as Orlando Pace, Jonathan Ogden, Matt Light, Tony Ugoh and Jason Peters. It is now a position that college recruiters seek out to protect their quarterbacks.

It is a position, that after all, not only protects the face and leader of the team, but may also protect his life.

(Ed.'s note: some information taken from "The Blind Side," by Michael Lewis.)


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