Holmes: Lack of love is offensive

The sports media’s obsession over NFL quarterbacks is enough to make me gag at times.

Stars like Brady, Brees and Manning are treated like football gods who are blessed with superior intelligence, creativity and decision-making skills.

Meanwhile, struggling quarterbacks like Alex Smith, Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen are the NFL’s goats. These were guys who were touted as future NFL stars but supposedly fizzled on the big stage.

Granted, the so-called great quarterbacks in the NFL are certainly talented, but they’re nothing without an offensive line. In fact, I would argue that it’s an offensive line that essentially makes or breaks the career of a starting quarterback.

Watch any of Tom Brady’s games and you’ll see him floating around in the pocket for what seems like eons. The Pats’ O-line is so strong that Saint Tom has time to wave to his supermodel girlfriend in the press box before having to unload.

Of course, the importance of an effective O-line is no secret, particularly among the star QBs themselves, who lavishly spoil their O-men with a sprinkle of the millions they’ve made as the team’s marquee man.

Star receivers, the NFL’s drama queens, also have their offensive lines to thank for their fat contracts since they’re only able to make pretty plays because their QBs have time to pass.

Despite this elementary logic, the sports media continues to pay relatively scant attention to the big O-boys. Why is this?

I think it’s actually quite simple. Unlike nearly every other position in football, there are very few statistics to measure the success of individual offensive linemen. As a result, there are few points of reference when talking about them.

To adequately assess offensive linemen means actually watching them instead of the ball, which is a tricky thing to do for most observers, including those in the media. It’s simply too tempting to watch the ball and admire a quarterback’s throw, a receiver’s catch, or a running back’s rush.

Watching offensive linemen do their work, on the other hand, is about as exciting as watching an episode of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

Granted, standard fare football stats such as sacks and time of possession do offer clues to the efficiency of an offensive line. Perhaps even yards per game will hint at an O-line’s effectiveness. That said, most people will tend to trace these numbers back to quarterbacks, receivers and running backs.

One stat that might provide a little more insight into an offensive line’s effectiveness, or lack thereof, is penalties. It’s fairly easy to find penalty stats for overall offense, however, these numbers are rarely broken down by infraction.

This is unfortunate since the penalty that can usually be tied directly to an offensive line is holding. Offensive holding is probably the biggest drive killer in the NFL, yet it’s tricky to find reliable team-by-team stats. I’ve yet to find a solid resource online, although I’m sure there’s one out there.

Anyone out there know where to find these numbers? Feel free to comment below.

– Holmes

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