Andrew Whitworth has seen a lot of football in his life but has so far been unable to replicate the same team success that he had become so familiar with during his high school and college playing days. Whitworth was a part of two Louisiana state championships in high school, and the 2000 iteration was named as the best team in the country.
As a five-star recruit in the 2001 class, Whitworth chose to stay close to home and play for Nick Saban at LSU. In his second year with the Tigers, Whitworth was named as a freshman All-American by The Sporting News and the Football Writer’s Association. In the Cotton Bowl against #9 Texas that season, Whitworth played in 99 snaps and the Tigers rushed for 248 yards, while also throwing 45 pass attempts in the loss. That’s a lot of run blocking. That’s a lot of pass blocking. Against one of the best defenses in college football that year.
During Whitworth’s second season, his first as the left tackle, LSU beat three top-20 teams in the regular season, then routed #5 Georgia in the SEC Championship, then in the BCS Championship they defeated an Oklahoma team that had been ranked #1 from Week 1 until their Big 12 Championship lost to Kansas State.
The player on the team with the most total snaps played that season was Andrew Whitworth.
Whitworth again led the team in snaps in 2004, cutting his sacks allowed down from five to one, and his penalties down from seven to five. As a senior in 2005, Whitworth was again among the team leaders in snaps, but he allowed zero sacks; Whitworth didn’t allow a sack in any of his final 22 college football games and no, he was not the first overall pick in the 2006 draft.
As noted in his LSU bio, Whitworth never missed a game or practice during his five years with LSU. His 52 games played and started was at least a school record at the time, if not still to this day. The bio notes that only one player in NCAA history had started more than 52 career games.
Despite every reason in the world to not let Andrew Whitworth slip out of the first round, and every mistake that the Bengals make with each passing year, Cincinnati managed to find him with the 55th overall pick in the 2006 draft.
Every other player picked in that round retired at least four years ago, with the most recent being cups of tea for Kellen Clemens and Darryl Tapp in 2017. What’s maybe more amazing is that the top tackle drafted that year was D’Brickashaw Ferguson by the Jets and even though he never missed a game in his career and made three Pro Bowls, he still retired six years ago.
For some more familiar perspective on the 2006 NFL Draft, consider that the St. Louis Rams’ first round selection that year was Tye Hill. Hill played in 16 games as a rookie, then 24 more over the rest of his career.
Whitworth was a late second round pick, which actually means that he had really low odds to contribute as a rookie, if he ever even turned out well at all, but he was a Week 1 starter at left tackle for the Bengals. Most top-ten picks are not even Week 1 starters at left tackle. But during Whitworth’s rookie season, Carson Palmer went to the Pro Bowl, Rudi Johnson rushed for over 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns, and Cincinnati featured two 1,000-yard receivers, and no Andrew Whitworth was not named to the Pro Bowl that season.
In fact, Whitworth was not named to the Pro Bowl for the first time until 2012!
Over his 11 seasons with the Bengals, Whitworth played in 168 of a possible 176 games, plus six of six playoff games, only missing six starts in 2008 and two in 2013. And though he deserves recognition as a player who should do more than just “make some noise” when he gets to the Hall of Fame ballot, Whitworth has only been named to four Pro Bowl rosters during his 15 season career.
Whitworth’s seven games missed due to a torn MCL last season were the first games he had missed because of injury since joining the Rams in 2017. And he still fought back to start two playoffs games, right after he had turned 39, when maybe some players half his age would have rested to protect their futures.
Not that Andrew Whitworth doesn’t consider his future, but he’s entering 2021 with the mindset that next season has to be “all or nothing” for the LA Rams. The 39-year-old left tackle told Good Morning Football on Friday that anything short of winning a Super Bowl and winning it will be considered a failure.
“For us, that’s just the truth,” Whitworth said during a Friday appearance on Good Morning Football. “We’ve figured out how to win playoff games, we’ve made some runs in the postseason. And this time for us and this opportunity we feel like this team, nothing short of going to that Super Bowl and winning it is good enough. And that’s really the expectation level for us, even though we know that’s a slippery slope. But that’s where we want to be. And if that’s what you want, then you got to be able to speak about it and let people know that that’s the only thing you see is the goal, and the only thing you see as accomplishing this season is just going and winning a Super Bowl.”
Even though he helped the Bengals reach the playoffs six times (Cincinnati has finished 7-9 or worse in each of the four years since he left) and paved the way for Jared Goff and Todd Gurley to reach the Super Bowl in 2018, Whitworth has fallen short of the expectations that I’m sure he set for himself after winning championships at the high school and college level. He’s got two of the best defensive players in the NFL on his team, a winning head coach, and now he gets to protect Matthew Stafford and run block for Cam Akers.
It’s all setting up for a special year and one thing that we know all Rams fans can count on is that Whitworth will show up and give it everything he’s physically and mentally capable of — because Andrew Whitworth is fucking amazing.