Reflections from The Blind Side

I recently picked up The Blind Side, a book on the evolution of football by Moneyball author Michael Lewis. I started reading it last night (Saturday) to get an early start on Sunday morning football, and after church today read it in-between dull moments during the 49ers vs. Cardinals game*. There weren't many of those moments (a harrowing OT Niners victory), but the book reads quick and made me want to blog on it quick, before I'm even done with it. And it's leaving its mark on tXtFL as well on this blog.

"The evolution of football," it reads. When I first read the subtitle I thought that I would be reading about the development of rugby into American football, or perhaps the transition from a game without lights or helmets to the highly regulated game we have today. Or in the spirit of Moneyball, The Blind Side might show me how a team like the Patriots (a team I didn't even knew existed growing up) became The Patriots (a team that wows every statistic).

But instead Lewis' masterpiece turns out to be about the development of the left tackle. The what?! I didn't even know there was a distinction between someone who played right tackle and someone who played left tackle until I started coding tXtFL. And I certainly didn't know that the left tackle is often the 2nd highest paying position on a team, right behind the quarterback.

In the opening chapter, Lewis hits us hard with Lawrence Taylor, the defensive linebacker whose unstoppable force created the term, "the blind side," as he burrowed into the quarterback from behind, from the QB's blind side. With the creation of Taylor came the reactionary development of the left tackle as position supreme on the offensive line. No longer would the offensive line be a single wall that acted merely in unison. Not all tackles are equal, and since Taylor tackled with extraordinary force, the left tackle position needed to be extraordinarily forceful. The Tom Bradys and, uh, Trent Dilfers in the league depend on the left tackle, as do the coffers supplying the quarterbacks their multi-million dollar salaries. In particular, Lewis traces the development of Michael Oher, a so-called "freak of nature" whose incredible body and speed are to football what incredible mass and acceleration are to physics--an unstoppable force.

So what does this all mean to tXtFL? It means that now the LT** takes on greater statistical weight during passing plays, where the QB needs extra time in the pocket before getting pummeled by the right defensive end. And against the statistically weightier LT is an equally weightier right DE, ready to pummel the pocket and its hapless QB.

Happy Thanksgiving!

* Michael Lewis himself returned a punt for the then-longest play for a 49er all season...but alas, a different Lewis!
** I mean the left tackle, not Lawrence Taylor...though essentially he redefined the left tackle position.


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