We don’t have to do this. We can be better. Why are we the way we are?
It’s 2018. We’re mired in an crisis of conscience to decide what we sincerely care about. We can’t separate spin from sincerity. Everything is awash in a constant barrage of reaction.
Yesterday, Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in Week 6. And for understandable reasons. He broke 200 rushing yards. He got into the end zone twice. He made fantasy owners worldwide chortle.
The problem of course is that he wasn’t the most dominant player (or perhaps unit) on the field. No, the most dominant entity in Week 6 was the Rams’ offensive line which, in the running game, completely decimated the Denver Broncos’ defense.
And yet Gurley won OPOW.
And of course he did. He broke 200 yards! He got in the end zone twice! Rams fans and fantasy owners rejoiced! And lo did the offensive line wallow in the silence...
How many of those 208 yards were really the offensive line’s though? How many yards did Gurley rack up without being touched simply running through space? How many were a function of the playcalling supported by fantastic blocking from the offensive line? That shouldn’t take anything away from Gurley. And of course it hasn’t. Gurley won OPOW. He’s garnered headlines from around the NFL’s national media.
The offensive line has not.
And that’s the bias at work that I think we should be able to highlight more often.
In talking to various media members this week and looking at fan responses on social media and in the comments, it’s clear there’s an inherent bias against offensive linemen. I’m not sure why. It may be the lack of traditional quantifiable statistics. Quarterbacks and running backs and wide receivers rack up yards and touchdowns. Defensive players put together sacks and tackles and turnovers. Offensive linemen put up...uh...well, yeah. And it may be just the historical lack of accolades afforded to big men.
Consider in a week where the line was so spectacular in the running game and Gurley won OPOW that no OL wins OPOW. In fact, every position is capable of winning the award outside of offensive linemen...and long snappers. Between the Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams players of the week, every single position player is afforded the opportunity to win this accolade except members of the offensive line and long snappers.
Doesn’t that seem strange?
And what’s perhaps more interesting is that as I nudged this idea this week, I got a bunch of responses that reiterated the bias against offensive linemen in two forms
#1.) A bias against offensive linemen because they’re offensive linemen
From several media members and fans, I got responses that suggested offensive linemen didn’t necessarily need accolades or acknowledgement. Or at least they needed less of it.
Here’s an illuminating example from the Rams’ radio broadcast lead, JB Long:
Think about this. Long is saying the OL is getting the credit they deserve because (paraphrasing here) they’re ranked #1 by Pro Football Focus.
We would never, ever accept the idea that a running back or a wide receiver or star defender (and of course not a golden boy QB) was getting an acceptable level of credit simply because they had a good grade at Football Outsiders. We lavish them with praise and awards and headlines.
But for offensive linemen, they grade out well and well...that’s enough for them. And it’s going to have to be because, as I mentioned, OL don’t get awards. It’s been baked into our consciousness long enough to know this and to buy into it. But poking at that revealed the second manifestation of an anti-OL bias.
2.) A bias so strong against OL that people would rather negate awards altogether rather than give them to the OL
And this was the weird one that really illuminated to me how strong the bias is.
When I mentioned this to media/fans, I got numerous responses that were meant to support the idea that the OL didn’t need awards. But what those responses really symbolized were arguments to get rid of the awards themselves. Presented with the idea of giving them to offensive linemen, the bias instinctively suggests that if an award is going to be given to an offensive lineman, we shouldn’t have awards in the first place.
“They don’t need awards. They’ll be happy just winning games.”
“Real fans know how good they’re playing. When we win the Super Bowl, nobody will care about the awards.
These are actual responses that I got this week. Before Todd Gurley won OPOW. And not after he and Aaron Donald and Sean McVay won Offensive Player, Defensive Player and Head Coach of the Year last year. Weird that we don’t disparage awards when Gurley or Donald or hell, Blake Countess are winning them. But bring up offensive linemen and suddenly we don’t need awards at all! They’re meaningless! All that matters is wins! (but make sure to log on to Instagram to congratulate Todd for winning OPOW)
It’s 2018. We can do better. Whether it’s creating an award for Offensive Line of the Week or figuring out why this bias is operating the way it is, I’m not sure what would help begin to rectify this problem.
But it is a problem. And it’s one we can solve by figuring out a way to give the big beefy boys up front the kind of distinction they deserve compared to their professional peers.
And we should start now.