NFL overgrowing its linemen
With the new year off to a rather auspicious start politically, I’d like to instead divert your attention towards an alarming trend I see taking place in professional football.
This of course, is the rapid demise, the decline and eventual fall from grace of the jumbo-sized, fire-hydrant shaped, squatty, interior defensive linemen.
Nearly all NFL teams have adopted college football-style play calling where offenses no longer formally huddle between plays, choosing instead to mingle near the line of scrimmage while the quarterback surveys the defense.
This tactic deters devious, plotting defensive coordinators from getting their preferred personnel (and fresh legs) onto the field for to take advantage of any situational mismatch.
This phenomenon has resulted in a significant spike in points scored, particularly during the fourth quarter of most contests but not for the reasons you may think.
The scoring frenzy now frequently seen during the final quarter of an NFL game isn’t due to the typical urgency involved with the play clock ticking down.
It is caused by what I casually refer to as “fourth quarter fatty fatigue” — a debilitating condition suffered by hefty, quasi-obese, portly run stoppers who are continually shuffled in and out of the game before the ball is snapped.
The sheer exhaustion these sultans of the smorgasbord (or, if you prefer, rulers of the waist land) experience reduces these players to oversized blocking dummies — gassed gladiators simply too tired to make plays.
This usually happens by the end of the third quarter and transforms the contest into an 11-on-7 mismatch, which produces a scoring bonanza during the final 15 minutes.
I have to believe hard-core gamblers are already exploiting this trend, increasing the frequency of exotic wagers on the combined number of points teams score in the fourth quarter exceeding those scored during the first three mostly in games played after Thanksgiving when these bruised and battered big men are no longer able to endure the multiple wind sprints required to get on and off the field.
Just as mobile, dual-threat players like Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson continue to confound defensive strategists while redefining the quarterback position, the decision to eliminate the offensive huddle has a direct impact on the personnel these coaches must now employ.
Nearly twice as many guards and centers were drafted in the first few rounds of the past two NFL drafts than defensive tackles.
If I aspire to be a future run-stopping specialist, I’d give serious thought to improving my cardio or else flip over to the other side and master the art of pass blocking.
In an effort to preserve this dying breed, the NFL players union should demand a 10-second extension to the play clock or advocate that oxygen masks be deployed from those drone cameras hovering above the defenders pre-snap.
The days of Colossus Girthus, those 350-pound defensive linemen who resemble sumo wrestlers, are indeed numbered.
Supersized brutes whose top priority is clogging running lanes and dismantling double-teams (former Eagle Terrence Cody or any Baltimore Raven DT in recent memory comes to mind) seem destined to suffer the same fate as the rotary phone — not because they’re no longer proficient at what they do but because they’re too winded to get on and off the field in a timely fashion.
Bill Contz was a starting offensive tackle on Penn State’s first national championship football team in 1982 and went on to play six seasons in the NFL with New Orleans and Cleveland. Contz published a book in 2017, “When the Lions Roared: Joe Paterno and One of College Football’s Greatest Teams.” He resides in Pittsburgh and winters in Arizona. He can be reached at email@example.com.