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And even if they do, on account of the unique requirements of sound offensive line play, namely that individuals must step up and "stand toe to toe," but also be coordinated into a synchronized group mind meld, finding embracers of the hard edge isn’t enough. The whole unit must be, as French said it, brought into harmony.
The old, eccentric longtime assistant who coached under Edwards for 20 years explained some of the intricacies of protecting the quarterback and opening holes. There’s more to it than just firing off on defensive linemen, including a lot of technique, some of which is counterintuitive. He compared effective blocking to everything from fencing to dancing to pulverizing meat.
He emphasized that his 300-pound pupils move their feet, keep their heads up, stay balanced, kick step properly, punch out, all the rudiments, and that the whole thing stay coordinated and cohesive.
To Tujague’s point, French also liked mean, bad-tempered, churlish, beastly linemen who’d just as soon cave in an opponent’s nose as look at it. They just had to move like a concerted troupe of ballerinas while doing so. And, as you’d expect, they couldn’t focus on getting any kind of individual glory because, quite frankly, it wasn’t coming.
Anonymity is not only an O-lineman’s fate, it’s his friend.
It is, in part, because of that unique team-oriented role that the offensive line is the core of any successful outfit, the beacon to which everyone looks for inspiration. Tujague knows that, too.
"They’re the most important part of any team," he said. "When you look, especially at our offense, look at what we’re doing, when you do it with an attitude that you won’t lose, that you’ll win at all costs, when people see 300-pound men doing that, it’s a lot easier for 180-pound men to buy in and follow."
But not when 300-pound men are allowing 270-pound defenders to swim by and crush 180-pound teammates.
"The job up front has to get done," French said, all those years ago. "If not, your offense is dead."
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.
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