Commentary

The new left tackle thought process

The cornerstone of an O-line? Not these days, despite a certain book's claim

Originally Published: June 24, 2010
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider
Getty ImagesHopefully, Drew Brees isn't consoling Jamaal Brown by using KC Joyner's metrics about the value of left tackles.

Let's do a little thought experiment.

Imagine for a moment that one of the league's most pass-happy teams, piloted by maybe the greatest quarterback in NFL history, has an injury at the left guard position in the middle of the season.

If that happened in the contemporary world of pro football, a team would try many things to fix the problem. They might go with a backup, or they would shuffle around linemen at just about every position until they found the best fit.

The one thing they would never do is move their All-Pro left tackle to play left guard for the rest of the year.

Yet that is exactly what the Baltimore Colts did in 1962. Palmer Pyle, their starting left guard, went down with an injury in Week 6. Baltimore's coaching staff moved five-time All-Pro left tackle (and legendary pass blocker) Jim Parker inside to play left guard for the rest of the season (and, not incidentally, for the next five years).

The move certainly worked -- Parker became the only offensive lineman to be named All-Pro at two different offensive line positions in the same season. But conventional wisdom says that kind of thing would never happen today. It would go against the well-ingrained orthodoxy of the modern NFL that says the left tackle position is more valuable than any other offensive line position and therefore must be manned by an elite athlete.

Teams are now acting in a way that says they believe having a top-line left tackle is not a necessity. There is ample evidence to back this claim up.

That may be the line of thinking you have if you saw or read "The Blind Side," but there is ample evidence the NFL is starting to reconsider that mindset. Teams are now acting in a way that says they believe having a top-line left tackle is not a necessity. There is ample evidence to back this claim up.

The most recent came when the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints traded their two-time Pro Bowler and former first round selection Jammal Brown to the Washington Redskins for a conditional third or fourth round draft pick.

This is statistically notable for two reasons.


To see which teams have decided that the left tackle isn't so important, you must be an ESPN Insider.