What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

The Dubsism All-Time Offensive Line Team

The big guys never get any love.  Even though the NFL released it’s list of Hall of Fame inductees for 2012 this weekend, it put us here at Dubsism in mind that no matter what you do with the Hall of Fame, there’s a serious amount of guys who even though they may be in the Hall of Fame, they get overlooked because they weren’t “glory” players.  Everybody loves to make lists about who they think are the greatest quarterbacks, greatest running backs, greatest “whatever skill guys” you would want to list.  To fill the gap, we’ve created just such a list for the big guys up front.

In doing so, our crack research staff here at Dubsism encountered one small problem. In order to be fair to the “old school guys;” those from the era when the O-line meant the  “Front Seven;” when the “Four Horsemen” were led by the “Seven Mules,”  we had to stick with an “old school” format. This means the following teams you will see are broken down by the “old school” definition of  who was an ” offensive lineman;” two Tackles, two Guards, two Ends, and a Center.

Pete Pihos: Set the standard for end play in the modern era.

In order to make this the most complete list we could, we had to create a standard for the ends. The was called the “Pihos” standard; so named for Philadelphia Eagle Hall of Fame End Pete Pihos.  Pihos changed the way ends were used in the NFL; no longer were ends seen merely as “extra tackles.”  If there was a current player who played like Pihos, the closest pick would be Rob Gronkowski. Pete Pihos allowed for the  emergence of the tight end as a serious offensive weapon.

Former NFL head coach George Allen offered the best description of Pihos:

“He was no giant, but he was big enough. He was no sprinter, but he was fast enough. He was extremely tough and durable and determined, and he seemed to me an exceptionally smart player. He was the kind of player coaches like me wanted to captain their clubs.”

Pete Pihos’ name  is not amongst the ends on this list; his role is far too important for mere lists.  Without him, the NFL would have never seen some of the talent it has produced at tight end since.

Beside, its not like Bill Belichick used two tight ends  (Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski) to get into the Super Bowl.

Having said that…here’s the list.

First Team:

Left End: John Mackey

John Mackey was only the second player who performed strictly as a tight end to become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 6-2, 224-pound Syracuse University star joined the Baltimore Colts as a No. 2 draft pick in 1963 and quickly established himself as a premier performer at his position.

He played nine seasons with the Colts and then finished his 10-year career with the San Diego Chargers in 1972. Mackey was not like other tight ends of his day, who were typically thought of as just another tackle on the line of scrimmage. John added another dimension to the position. His breakaway speed made him a legitimate long-distance threat. In 1966 for instance, six of his nine touchdown receptions came on plays of 51, 57, 64, 79, 83 and 89 yards.

Even though leg and knee injuries combined to cut short his career, he was a durable performer who missed only one game in 10 years. Mackey started every game as a rookie and then became the only first-year star to be picked for that year’s Pro Bowl. He also played in four other Pro Bowls during the 1960s. For three straight years in 1966, 1967 and 1968, he was the NFL’s all-league tight end.

In 10 seasons, the one-time NFL Players Association president caught 331 passes for 5,236 yards and 38 touchdowns. As a rookie, he caught 35 passes for 726 yards and a career high 20.7-yard average. That year, the Colts also utilized his speed as a kickoff return specialist and he averaged 30.1 yards on nine returns. Perhaps his most famous single play came in Super Bowl V when he grabbed a deflected pass from Johnny Unitas that produced a 75-yard touchdown, a Super Bowl record at the time. {1}

Left Tackle: Jim Parker

From the moment Jim Parker joined the 1957 Baltimore Colts as their first-round draft pick, he was considered a cinch for pro football stardom. Jim had been a two-way tackle, an All-America and the Outland Award winner as the nation’s top lineman at Ohio State.

Although his college coach thought his best shot in the pros would be on defense, Colts’ coach Weeb Ewbank tabbed Jim as an offensive lineman. The Colts at the time were just evolving as an National Football League power and the premier passer in the game, Johnny Unitas, was the guy who made the Baltimore attack click.

Parker had little experience in pass blocking, but Ewbank was sure Parker could do the job. “It didn’t take me long to learn the one big rule,” Parker remembered. “’Just keep them away from John,’ Coach Ewbank told me at my first practice. ‘You can be the most unpopular man on the team if the quarterback gets hurt.’ I couldn’t forget that!” And Parker didn’t forget.

The fact that he was assigned to protect such a famous teammate may explain why Parker seemed to attract more publicity than is usually accorded to offensive linemen. Another reason is that he was such an exceptional craftsman. In an out-of-the-ordinary twist, Jim divided his career almost evenly between left tackle and left guard.

Each job had its distinct set of responsibilities. Even the opponents were different. As a tackle, he went head-to-head against the faster, more agile defensive ends. At guard, his daily foes were the bigger and stronger defensive tackles. Parker handled both positions in all-pro fashion. At left tackle he earned All-Pro honors four straight times from 1958 to 1961.

In the middle of the 1962 season he was moved to left guard and at year’s end was named All-Pro at both tackle and guard. He then followed up with three straight seasons of earning All-Pro accolades at guard (1963 to 1965). During this period Parker played in eight consecutive Pro Bowls. {1}

Left Guard: Bruce Matthews

The Houston Oilers selected offensive lineman Bruce Matthews with the 9th pick overall in the 1983 National Football League Draft.  The move paid huge dividends for the franchise for the next 19 seasons.

When Matthews retired as a member of the Tennessee Titans following the 2001 season, no full-time positional player in NFL history had competed in more games (296) than the former USC All-America.  In fact, he played so long that his former Trojan teammate, Jeff Fisher, became his NFL coach. A three-time Offensive Lineman of the Year, Matthews started 292 of his 296 games played in the regular season and started all 15 playoff games in which he played.

Matthews began his pro career as a guard and earned a starting role on the team’s offensive line in just his second game.  Incredibly valuable to the team’s offense, Matthews eventually played every position along the Oilers/Titans offensive line during his long career.  He made his most starts at guard (99 on the left side, and 67 as the right guard) and center (87).  He also started 22 games as the team’s right tackle and 17 at left tackle.

The Oilers suffered through some dismal seasons early in Matthews’ career that included back-to-back 2-14 records during his first two NFL seasons.  The team steadily improved with Matthews helping solidify the offense and the Oilers reached the playoffs by 1987.  It marked the first of seven straight postseason trips for Matthews and the Oilers.  Two more playoff seasons came after the team relocated to Tennessee.  In 1999, the Titans were crowned AFC champions and advanced to Super Bowl XXXIV where they narrowly lost to the St. Louis Rams.
As the team’s fortunes improved, the accolades came in great numbers for Matthews. Beginning in 1988 and continuing through his final year, he was selected to the Pro Bowl each and every season.  His 14 consecutive Pro Bowls (9 at guard, 5 at center) tied Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen for the most ever.

Matthews was also named first-team All-Pro nine times (1988-1993, 1998-2000) and All-AFC 12 seasons (1988-1993, 1995-2000).  He was selected as a guard on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s. {1}

Center: Mick Tingelhoff

It is one of the biggest travesties that Mick Tinglehoff is not in the Hall of Fame. Tingelhoff is the “Rodney Dangerfield” of offensive linemen; he just doesn’t get any respect, and it is completely ridiculous that he doesn’t.  Tinglehoff was one of ten players to have played in all four Vikings Super Bowl appearances in the 1970s, and is generally considered the best center of his era.  When he retired, he had played in the 2nd most consecutive games (240) in NFL history  – behind only teammate Jim Marshall (270). He was inducted into the Vikings’ Ring of Honor in 2001 and the team has retired his #53 jersey. He is also a member of the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame but for some reason has not yet been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

After graduating from Nebraska, Tingelhoff entered the 1962 NFL Draft, but was not drafted and signed with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent in 1962.  He became their starting center during his rookie season and held that spot until he retired in 1978.  In 1964, Tinglehoff began a streak five straight AP First Team All-Pro selections and six straight Pro Bowl appearances.  In 1967, Tinglehoff was named First Team All-Pro by Newspaper Enterprise Association and UPI as well as Second Team All-Pro by the AP. In 1969, he was named the NFL’s Top Offensive Lineman of the Year by the 1,000-Yard Club.  In 1970, he was named First Team All-Pro by both the PFWA and Pro Football Weekly.  He was also named Second Team All-Pro by Newspaper Enterprise Association.  He was named First Team All-NFC for that season by the AP.

And he’s still not in the Hall of Fame.

Right Guard: John Hannah

John Hannah, a 6-2, 265-pound guard from Alabama, was the first round pick of the New England Patriots and the fourth player selected in the 1973 National Football League Draft. He was an eight-letterman star in football, track and wrestling and a two-time grid All-America at Alabama.

By starting his first 13 games before a freak leg injury forced him out of the final game of his rookie season, Hannah dispelled any concerns the Patriots might have had about his ability to adjust from the straight-ahead blocking of the college wishbone offenses to the drop-back blocking and pulling required of guards in the pros.

In the next 12 years, Hannah became widely recognized as the premier guard of pro football. He was named All-Pro 10 straight years from 1976 through 1985. He won the NFL Players Association’s Offensive Lineman of the Year award four straight years from 1978 through 1981. Hannah was named to nine Pro Bowls but missed the game following the 1983 season because of an injury.

In spite of the constant contact his body had to absorb, Hannah missed only five games because of injuries of a possible 191 in his 13-season career. He also missed three games due to a contract dispute at the start of the 1977 season. Hannah clearly was the mainstay of an excellent offensive line that helped to power the Patriots to some of their finest years.

During his career, New England enjoyed seven winning seasons and a 100-91-0 cumulative record. Hannah was given a large share of the credit when the Patriots rushed for a then-record 3,165 yards in 1978. John finished his career after the 1985 season on a high note. His final campaign had produced an AFC championship and Super Bowl XX appearance for the Patriots, and All-Pro honors and a Pro Bowl invitation for himself. {1}

Right Tackle: Dan Dierdorf

Dan Dierdorf excelled as an offensive lineman for 13 seasons from 1971 through 1983. He seemed destined for stardom from the moment he joined the St. Louis Cardinals as a second-round choice and the 43rd player selected in the 1971 draft.

Dierdorf, who had been a consensus All-America at Michigan in 1970, possessed size, speed, quickness, discipline, intelligence and consistency, all necessary attributes for an outstanding lineman. The 6-3, 275-pounder from Canton, Ohio, where he was born on June 29, 1949, played both guard and tackle his first two seasons before settling down as the permanent right tackle in his third season. Dierdorf, who was equally effective as a blocker on both running and passing plays, was the ring-leader of the line that permitted the fewest sacks in the NFC for five straight years in the mid-1970s. In 1975, the Cardinals set a then-record by allowing only eight sacks in 14 games.

He proved his durability by playing in every game until a broken jaw forced him out of two games in his seventh season in 1977. In 1979, he did miss 14 of 16 games because of a dislocated left knee. However, he bounced back strongly in 1980 with another all-pro caliber season. In 1982, Dierdorf unselfishly responded to a personnel emergency on the offensive line by agreeing to move to center. He not only made a smooth adjustment to the new position but he proved to be especially effective blocking against the bigger nose tackles of the new 3-4 defensive alignments he had to face.

Dierdorf was named All-Pro five seasons – from 1975 to 1978 and again in 1980. He was elected to six Pro Bowl games, missing only once from 1974 through 1980. The NFL Players Association picked him as the best overall blocker in the NFL three straight years from 1976 to 1978. {1}

Right Tackle/Place Kicker: Lou “The Toe” Groza*

When Lou Groza retired after the 1967 season, it was truly the end of an unforgettable era for the Cleveland Browns. The last remaining member of the original 1946 Browns team, the big offensive tackle and placekicking artist played 21 years, more than any other pro player up to that time.

Many fans remember Groza primarily as a kicker, the first specialist who became so proficient that the Browns started thinking of making field goals, instead of touchdowns, when the going was rough and time was running short. Lou, who was one of pro football’s finest offensive tackles, particularly in the middle years of his long tenure, preferred to think of himself first as a tackle who just happened to be the Browns’ field-goal kicker because he “had the talent.”

Groza was named first- or second-team all-league eight times during his career. In 1954, he was The Sporting News’ NFL Player of the Year. Nine times he was named to the Pro Bowl. Six times he was a starting tackle. In 1946, 33-man rosters prevented any team from carrying a specialist, but Groza was almost that, doing all of the kicking and playing on the scrimmage line only occasionally.

Late in his second season, Lou made “the first team” and he didn’t give up that cherished status until 1959. He sat out the entire 1960 season with a back injury and then returned in 1961 at the age of 37 for seven more campaigns as a kicker only.

In 21 years, “The Toe,” as he quickly became known, tallied 1,608 points and for years ranked as the all-time top scorer. His most dramatic kick came in the 1950 National Football League Championship Game, when his 16-yard field goal in the final seconds gave the Browns a 30-28 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. {1}

Right End: Tony Gonzalez

Tony Gonzalez is the only member of this list who is still active in the. He played college football for the University of California where he was an All-American.  Since being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft, Gonzalez has become a twelve-time Pro Bowl selection.

He currently holds the NFL records for most receptions by a tight end in a single season (102), most receptions by a tight end in a career (1,149), career touchdowns by a tight end (95), and reception yards for a tight end (13,339).

Second Team:

Left End: Kellen Winslow

Kellen Winslow, a 6-5, 250-pound tight end played for the San Diego Chargers from 1979 to 1987. To get the draft rights to the All-America from the University of Missouri, the Chargers engineered a draft-day trade with the Cleveland Browns. The Chargers then made Winslow their first-round pick and the 13th player selected overall choice in the 1979 draft.

Winslow went on to play in five Pro Bowls and was the co-Player of the Game in the 1982 game. Kellen got off to a quick start as a rookie with 25 catches before being sidelined by a knee injury in the seventh game. He returned in 1980 with career-high 89 receptions for 1,290 yards. He had 88 catches both in 1981 and 1983 and 319 in a four-year period from 1980 to 1983.

A second-knee injury forced him to miss 17 games in 1984 and 1985. But he returned to his old form late in 1985 and 1986 and he earned his fifth Pro Bowl berth following the 1987 season after a four-year absence. A knee injury suffered in the 12th game in 1987 eventually forced his retirement.

Even though he was plagued by knee injuries much of his career, Kellen still amassed 541 receptions for 6,741 yards and 45 touchdowns in just nine National Football League seasons. In 1984, he set a personal record with 15 receptions in a game against the Green Bay Packers. At the time of his retirement, Winslow ranked fifth among active receivers and 14th among all NFL pass-catchers.

A consensus All-Pro in 1980, 1981, 1982, Winslow’s most memorable performance occurred in 1981, in the Chargers 41-38 overtime playoff victory over Miami, when he caught 13 passes for 166 yards and blocked a field goal with four seconds to play to send the game into overtime. {1}

Left Tackle: Anthony Muñoz

Anthony Muñoz, a 6-6, 278-pound offensive tackle, was the first-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals and the third player selected overall in the 1980 NFL Draft. Some considered the pick a risk because of multiple knee injuries and the fact that he played only one full game his senior year at the University of Southern California. But as the two-time All-America lineman (1978-1979) proved, the concerns were unnecessary.

An exceptional straight-on blocker, Muñoz was agile, quick, and strong. He had great foot quickness and agility necessary to block quick defensive ends. Considered by many to be the premier tackle during his 13-seasons of play, he started 164 of 168 games from 1980-1990.

An all-around athlete, he even caught seven passes and scored four touchdowns on tackle eligible plays. His stalwart play was the key to the success that propelled Cincinnati to three AFC Central Division titles and two AFC championships (1981 and 1988).

The recipient of virtually every possible honor, Anthony was elected to 11 consecutive Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro 11 straight times from 1981 through 1991. He was named the NFL Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1981, 1987, and 1988 and the NFL Players Association Lineman of the Year in 1981, 1985, 1988, and 1989.

Always in top-notch condition, Muñoz missed only three games due to injury. His rigorous workout routine included working out in the weight room he had installed in his home and running three to four miles every day. He set high personal standards and worked tirelessly to achieve them.

Born August 19, 1958, in Ontario, California, Muñoz was too big to play Pop Warner football as a youth. Instead, he concentrated on becoming an excellent baseball player. Eventually, as a college sophomore, he pitched for USC’s national championship team in 1978. By then, however, it was clear that his size and his talents were more suited for football. {1}

Left Guard: Randall McDaniel

The Minnesota Vikings used their first round selection (19th overall) in the 1988 NFL Draft on guard Randall McDaniel, an All-America and four-year starter from Arizona State. McDaniel, who immediately earned a starting role with the Vikings, played in all 16 games in his rookie season, 15 as a starter. His efforts were recognized that year as he was selected to several all-rookie teams and named a second-team All-NFC pick.

McDaniel continued to excel the following season as he embarked on a streak of 202 consecutive starts that continued through the end of his career. He also earned the first of 12 straight Pro Bowl berths.

In 1994, McDaniel was the leader of a rock solid offensive line that held opponents to just one sack every 22.7 pass attempts, the second-best ratio in team history. In 1996, coaches felt he was so talented that he could be used in ways other than just blocking. In a late season game against the Arizona Cardinals, McDaniel had two goal line carries. Then, in the Pro Bowl a couple months later, he caught a touchdown pass, becoming the first guard in AFC-NFC Pro Bowl history to accomplish such a feat.

The 1998 season was highlighted by the high-scoring attack of the Vikings offense that scored a then-record 556 points. Showing his skill at both pass and run blocking, McDaniel allowed only 1.5 sacks all season while clearing run lanes for Minnesota running backs to average 5.4 yards per carry on his side of the line.

After earning nine straight first-team all-pro selections (1990-98) and starting 13 consecutive playoff games for the Vikings, McDaniel joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two final seasons (2000-01) before retiring from the NFL.
Adding to an already talented offense, McDaniel in his first season with the Bucs, helped pave the way for a team that rushed for 2,066 yards. That included a team single-game record 250 yards rushing against the Dallas Cowboys. For his efforts, McDaniel was named to his final Pro Bowl.

In all, McDaniel blocked for six different 1,000-yard rushers and five 3,000-yard passers during his 14-season career. Regarded as one of the finest offensive linemen in NFL history, McDaniel was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s. {1}

Center: Mike Webster

Mike Webster, a 6-1, 255-pound All-Big Ten center at Wisconsin, was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fifth-round selection and the 125th player taken in the 1974 NFL Draft. A three-year starter and honor student in college, Webster adapted to the pro game quickly.

For two years, he split time at center with veteran Ray Mansfield while seeing some service at guard and the special teams. However, with a start in the final game of the 1975 season, Webster began a string of 150 consecutive starts that lasted until 1986, when he missed the first four games with a dislocated elbow.

Webster, who was born March 18, 1952, at Tomahawk, Wisconsin, played more seasons (15) and more games (220) than any other player in Pittsburgh history. Webster, who was the team’s offensive captain for nine seasons, was considered to be the strongest Steeler and won the Ironman competition in 1980 to give credence to that belief.

Webster, who joined the team in the same year the Steelers won their first of four Super Bowls, also played in six AFC championship games. Pittsburgh won four of the six title games. Webster was an all-pro choice seven times and was selected to the All-AFC team five times from 1978 through 1982. He also played in nine Pro Bowls, the first five as a starter.

The Steelers made Webster a free agent in 1988 and he quickly signed on with the Kansas City Chiefs, first as an offensive line coach. But within a few weeks, Webster was back at his old center spot, starting all 16 games in 1989. He completed his 17-season, 245-game career after a final 1990 campaign with the Chiefs. {1}

Right Guard: Joe DeLamielleure

In the 1970s, Joe DeLamielleure and his Buffalo Bills offensive line mates were dubbed the “Electric Company,” because they “turned the Juice loose.” The “Juice” of course was Hall of Fame running back O.J. Simpson. An All-America and three-time All-Big Ten performer at Michigan State, “Joe D” as he was known, was selected in the first round of the 1973 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.

At first, when he failed his physical, it seemed he would never play pro football. Fortunately, further tests showed his irregular heartbeat was not serious, and Joe went on to win All-Rookie honors. It was the beginning of a string of career honors that few guards had or have since exceeded.

He went on to become the most honored lineman of the Bills respected front wall. Eight times during his career he was selected first- or second-team All-Pro; seven times he was named first- or second-team All-AFC, and six times he was named to the Pro Bowl. Since 1970, only two Hall of Fame guards, John Hannah with 10 and Gene Upshaw with seven, were named All-Pro more often. In 1975, the NFL Players Association named him Offensive Lineman of the Year.

Extremely durable and dependable, Joe played in 185 consecutive games during his 13 playing seasons with the Bills and the Cleveland Browns. A starter from the first game of his rookie season, DeLamielleure played and started in every game for eight seasons in Buffalo before being traded to Cleveland in 1980. During five years in Cleveland he played in every game and had only three non-starts.

Primarily due to the success of the Bills running attack led by Simpson, DeLamielleure was best known for his run blocking. Behind the swift pulling guard, O.J. became the first player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. But Joe was more than just a run blocker, he was also an effective pass blocker and rarely allowed his opponent to disrupt Buffalo’s or Cleveland’s pass plays. DeLamielleure, who was named to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team, finished his career in 1985 with a final season back where it had begun, in Buffalo. {1}

Right Tackle: Willie Roaf

The New Orleans Saints drafted tackle Willie Roaf out of Louisiana Tech in the first round eighth player overall, in the 1993 NFL Draft. He was the first offensive lineman selected in that year’s draft.

Roaf started all 16 games at right tackle and did not miss an offensive snap during his first season and earned All-Rookie honors. The following year he was switched to left tackle and performed at a level that earned him more national accolades. He was voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time, named first-team All-Pro, All-NFC, and honored as the NFLPA’s NFC Offensive Lineman of the Year for the first of two consecutive seasons.

He played nine seasons in New Orleans where he started 131 regular season games. He also started two playoff games including the franchise’s first-ever postseason win, a 31-28 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams in the 2000 NFC Wild Card game.

A knee injury shortened Roaf’s 2001 season to just seven games. Then, just prior to the next year’s draft Roaf was traded by the Saints to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for a third-round draft pick. He rebounded from his injury to regain his form. Roaf earned All-Pro honors in three of the four seasons he played with the Chiefs. He was a key part of Kansas City’s offensive line that helped the Chiefs lead the NFL in points scored in 2002 and 2003. The club also led the AFC in total yards in 2003 and the NFL in 2004 and 2005.

The 6’5”, 300-pound Roaf retired after the 2005 season. In all, he played in 189 career games over 13 seasons and was named first-team All-NFL seven times (1994-96, 2000, 2003-05), All-NFC six times, and All-AFC three times. He was also voted to 11 Pro Bowls. The only times he did not receive an invitation to the league’s All-Star game during his career was following his rookie year and his injury-shortened 2001 season.

Roaf is also a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s, and was just inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. {1}

Right End: Shannon Sharpe

The Denver Broncos selected Shannon Sharpe out of Savannah State in the seventh round of the 1990 NFL Draft. He retired 14 seasons later as the all-time leader in catches, yards and touchdowns by a tight end.

His breakout year came during his third season when he led the Broncos in receiving with 53 catches for 640 yards to earn his first of eight Pro Bowl nods. Other than an injury-shortened 1999 campaign, Sharpe never caught less than 60 passes in a season for the remainder of his career.

In 1993, he was named first-team All-Pro for the first of four times after catching 81 passes for 995 yards and scoring 9 touchdowns. He followed that performance with a career-high 87 receptions in 1994.

Sharpe left the Broncos in 2000 and signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an unrestricted free agent. It was while with Baltimore in 2001 that Sharpe surpassed Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome to become the NFL’s record holder for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end. After two seasons with the Ravens he returned to Denver and played two final years with the Broncos. He became the career leader in touchdowns by a tight end in his final season. All three career marks have since been surpassed. Sharpe’s final career numbers read 815 receptions for 10,060 yards and 62 TDs. Ten times he had 60 or more catches including three 80-catch seasons. Sharpe eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark three times and twice had 10 TDs in a season.

He played in 204 regular season games and started in four AFC championship games. He was the starting tight end in Denver’s back-to-back Super Bowl titles (XXXII and XXXIII) and the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV victory.

Sharpe’s 96-yard touchdown reception in the 2000 AFC Championship Game came on a short pass from Trent Dilfer on third-and-18. The tight end streaked up the middle untouched for the game’s first and only touchdown which proved to be all that the Ravens needed to secure its first AFC championship and Super Bowl berth. The play remains the longest TD catch in NFL playoff history.

Sharpe led the Broncos in receiving six times and the Ravens once. He was named first-team All-Pro and All-AFC in 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998 and was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s. {1}

Third Team:

Left End: Mike Ditka

Mike Ditka, the No. 1 draft pick of the Chicago Bears in 1961, introduced a new dimension to the tight end position that once was viewed primarily as an assignment for a tough, talented blocker. Ditka proved to be a superior blocker but he also became one of the first tight ends to catch a large number of passes.

He startled opponent defenses with 56 catches for 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns in his Rookie-of-the-Year campaign in 1961. Three years later in 1964, he had 75 receptions, a season record for tight ends that lasted until 1980 and the era of the 16-game season. The 6-3, 225-pound native of Carnegie, Pennsylvania was a consensus All- America in 1960 while playing for the University of Pittsburgh.

He moved into the Bears’ starting lineup at the beginning of his rookie season and didn’t miss a start in 84 games with the Bears. He earned All-NFL honors four straight seasons from 1961 through 1964 and was a Pro Bowl choice after each of his first five seasons. He wound up his 12-year career with 427 receptions for 5,812 yards and 43 touchdowns.

At the time of his retirement after the 1972 season, he ranked second among all tight ends in receptions. In 1967, Ditka was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. An injury in the second game that year aborted his consecutive-game streak at 86. He missed eight games in two years with the Eagles before moving on to the Dallas Cowboys in 1969. The fiercely determined and competitive Ditka regained much of his old form in four years in Dallas. His best campaign there was in 1971 when the Cowboys won their first Super Bowl championship. Ditka had 30 receptions that year and he scored the final touchdown in Dallas’ 24-3 win over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. {1}

Left Tackle: Art Shell

Art Shell, a third-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 1968, excelled on the special teams for two seasons before winning the starting offensive left tackle job in his third campaign. Within a short time, he became widely recognized as one of the premier offensive linemen in the National Football League.

Through much of his career, Shell teamed with left guard Gene Upshaw, a 1987 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinee, to provide the Raiders with an exceptional nucleus to a forward unit that powered the perennially strong Oakland offense of the 1970s.

Many observers rate Shell, who was equally adept as a pass protector and a blocker on running plays, as the finest of many excellent Raiders offensive linemen of the 1970s. Shell was a first- or second-team All-Pro choice six straight years from 1973 through 1978.

He also played in eight Pro Bowl games and 23 post-season contests, including eight AFL/AFC championships and the Raiders’ victories in Super Bowls XI and XV. Shell was credited with a nearly perfect performance against Jim Marshall, the Minnesota Vikings’ sterling defensive end, in Super Bowl XI.

Art played in his first 156 pro games before a pre-season injury in 1979 forced him out of the lineup for five games. He then launched another streak of 51 games that ended with an injury midway into his final 1982 campaign.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina Shell was All-State in both football and basketball at Bonds-Wilson High School in North Charleston. In college with the Maryland State-Eastern Shore grid team, he starred on both offense and defense. Art was named All-Conference three years, All-America two years by the Pittsburgh Courier and Ebony Magazine and little All-America as a senior in 1967. {1}

Left Guard: Gene Upshaw

Gene Upshaw was the Oakland Raiders’ first-round choice in the first combined AFL-NFL draft in 1967. The 6-5, 255-pound lineman had played center, tackle, and end while winning NAIA All-America honors at Texas A&I.

The Raiders’ coaching staff decided left guard would be Gene’s best pro position and Upshaw won the starting job in his rookie training camp. Upshaw’s size, it was felt, would help neutralize the effectiveness of Ernie Ladd and Buck Buchanan, two huge defensive tackles in Oakland’s division.

Gene held the guard spot for the next 15 seasons, starting in 207 straight regular season games until finally being forced out of action for one game in 1981. Upshaw returned the next week to play 10 more games in what turned out to be his final season. He was scheduled to play again in 1982, but an injury in the summer season put him on the injured reserved list for the entire campaign.

Altogether Upshaw played in an incredible 307 preseason, regular season, and post-season contests. Included in his 24 post-season games were three AFL and seven AFC championship games and Super Bowls II, XI and XV. Counting the AFL championship in 1967 and victories in Super Bowls XI and XV, Upshaw became the only player ever to start on championship teams in both the AFL and NFL.

Honors came frequently for Upshaw. He was named first- or second-team All-League or All-Conference 11 consecutive years, and he was named to play in seven Pro Bowls. Upshaw was an intense, intelligent, dedicated competitor who used his excellent size and speed to best advantage.

Extremely effective leading wide running plays; Gene was an integral part of the powerful offensive line that spawned the Raiders’ lethal running attack of the 1970s. Recognized as a team leader, Upshaw captained the Raiders’ offensive unit for eight seasons. {1}

Center: Jim Langer

Jim Langer joined the Miami Dolphins as a free agent in 1970, stayed with the club for 10 years through the 1979 season and then wound up his career with the Minnesota Vikings in 1980 and 1981. In his decade with the Dolphins, Jim developed from an obscure substitute to one of the finest centers ever to play.

Langer was named first-team All-Pro four times and All-AFC five straight years from 1973 to 1977 and was also picked for the Pro Bowl six straight times. During that period, he started in three AFC championship games and Super Bowls VI, VII and VIII.

Many qualified observers insist that Langer was the most proficient performer on a talent laden offensive line that fueled Miami’s vaunted ball-control offense. Jim played middle linebacker at South Dakota State before being signed by the Cleveland Browns as a free agent early in 1970, but was cut during training camp. Jim then latched on with the Dolphins.

For two years, he saw only limited action as a guard and a special teams player. But In 1972, he switched to center, won the starting job and wound up playing every offensive down in Miami’s perfect season.

Hard working and quick, Langer was a compact, low-driving blocker who had the strength to stymie the bigger defensive linemen. At first, Jim snapped only on T-formation scrimmage plays but, after long practice in his own backyard, he started snapping on punts and placekicks in 1974. Langer also proved to be durable.

Continuing to play in spite of injuries, Jim saw service in 141 consecutive games from 1972 until a knee injury ended his Miami tenure with seven games left in the 1979 season. Early in the 1980 campaign, he was traded to the Vikings, with whom he played two more seasons. {1}

Right Guard: Larry Little

Larry Little, unlike many highly touted Miami Dolphins stars of the 1970s, began his career in 1967 as an unheralded free agent with the San Diego Chargers. Larry, who had been a two-way tackle, team captain, and an All-Conference choice at Bethune-Cookman College, enjoyed only moderate success during his two years in San Diego.

Just before the 1969 campaign, however, he was traded to the Dolphins and it wasn’t long before the 6-1, 265-pound guard was being praised as one of the National Football League’s premier offensive linemen. A fixture at right guard during the 1970s when the Dolphins were a dominant team in pro football Little was the embodiment of the intimidating force of the famed Miami rushing attack.

A superb pass blocker, awesome on the scrimmage line and especially effective as the lead man on the powerful Dolphin sweeps, Little was named first-team All-NFL from 1971 through 1975 and again in 1977. He was also named second-team All-NFL in 1978, and All-AFC five times. Larry was selected to play in five Pro Bowls (1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1975). He was named the NFL Players Association’s AFC Lineman of the Year in 1970,1971 and 1972.

When Miami rushed for a then-record 2,960 yards in its perfect 1972 season, Little was tabbed by one prestigious selection panel as the NFL’s outstanding blocker. Little displayed versatility, durability and dedication throughout his career.

Coach Don Shula called him “a real inspiration, not just for the way he performs but also for his influence on our younger players.” In one emergency situation, brought about by injuries, Little shifted to the unfamiliar right tackle spot with little effect on his quality of play. Even though he was plagued by knee, ankle, and leg injuries through much of his career, he sat out only four games because of injuries in his first 11 seasons with the Dolphins.

Right Tackle: Jackie Slater

Jackie Slater, a veteran of twenty National Football League seasons, was like the Energizer Battery bunny that “just kept going and going and going.” Drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the third round of the 1976 NFL Draft, Slater is tied for third all time for the most seasons played in the history of the league. His 259 regular-season games played were the most ever by an offensive lineman when he retired, and his 20 seasons with one team is an NFL record.

Although used primarily as a backup and special teams player during his first three seasons, Slater became a starter in 1979 and was a part of an offensive line that surrendered just 29 sacks and helped the Rams’ offense finish second in the NFL in total yards gained with 6,006.

The 6-4, 277-pound tackle went on to become the mainstay of the Rams’ offensive line. Slater was a first- or second-team all-pro selection following five different seasons and a first- or second-team All-NFC choice, seven times. A popular player known for his work ethic and leadership skills, Slater earned seven Pro Bowl berths. His first selection followed the 1983 season, and then was chosen in consecutive years from 1985 through 1990.

Twenty-four different quarterbacks and 37 different running backs played behind Slater during his long career. A powerful drive blocker, Slater blocked for seven different 1,000-yard rushers, including Lawrence McCutcheon, Wendell Tyler, Eric Dickerson, Charles White, Greg Bell, Cleveland Gary, and Jerome Bettis. He also blocked in 107 games in which a runner gained 100 yards or more. Slater was also a quality pass blocker.

Twenty-seven times Rams quarterbacks threw for 300 yards or more in a game with Jackie in the lineup. In 1983, he and the Rams offensive line demonstrated their versatility when they allowed a league-low 23 sacks while also paving the way for Dickerson’s rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards.

A veteran of 18 playoff games, including Super Bowl XIV, Slater was a model of consistent superlative play and was widely regarded as one of the game’s premier linemen. {1}

Right End: Don Hutson

Don Hutson’s first touchdown came on an 83-yard pass from Arnie Herber in just his second game as a Green Bay Packer. He wound up with 99 career touchdown receptions, a record that stood for more than four decades. When Hutson retired in 1945 after 11 superb seasons, he held 18 NFL records, including 488 career receptions.

That was 200 more than his closest competitor. Hutson invented modern pass receiving. He created Z-outs, buttonhooks, hook-and-gos, and a whole catalog of moves and fakes. Although he had been an All-America at Alabama in 1934, there were plenty who doubted the skinny speedster could stand the pace of pro football. But it wasn’t long before his mere presence on the field had changed the defensive concept of the game.

Don could outmaneuver and outrace virtually every defender in the league. He led the NFL in receiving in eight of his 11 seasons and in scoring five straight years. Twice, in 1941 and 1942, he was named the league’s MVP.

Like everyone in the days before free substitution, Hutson was a 60-minute player who spent most of his career as a very fine safety on defense. In his final six seasons, he swiped 30 opposing quarterbacks’ passes. Often after scoring a touchdown, he would kick the extra point. In one quarter of a 1945 game, he caught four touchdown passes and kicked five PATs for an amazing 29 points.

Had it not been for a unique decision by NFL President Joe Carr, Hutson might never have become a landmark pass-catcher. After college, Don signed contracts with both the pass-minded Packers and the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers, a team that rarely passed. Carr ruled the contract with the earliest postmark would be honored. The Packers’ contract was postmarked 8:30 a.m., 17 minutes earlier than the Dodgers’ pact. Thus Hutson became a Packer. {1}

Honorable Mention:

Left End: Dave Casper

Tight end Dave Casper was an Honorable Mention All-America as an offensive tackle in 1972, and an All-America tight end in 1973 at Notre Dame. The Oakland Raiders selected him in the second round of the 1974 National Football League Draft.

Used primarily on special teams his first two years in Oakland, he earned a starter’s role in 1976 and quickly established himself as a dominant player, finishing the season with an impressive 53 catches for 691 yards and 10 touchdowns. His outstanding play invigorated the Raiders’ offense with a blend of pass catching and blocking that culminated in a 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI. Nicknamed “The Ghost” by his teammates, Casper was not only a great receiver and blocker, he was also a clutch performer.

Two of the game’s most memorable plays involved the sure-handed tight end. In the 1977 AFC playoff game between the Raiders and the Baltimore Colts, it was Casper’s 10-yard touchdown reception that ended the double-overtime affair, 37-31, in favor of the Raiders. “Ghost to the Post,” the game is called in reference to Casper’s 42-yard reception route that set up the tying field goal at the end of regulation.

Early the next season, Casper again pulled his team from certain defeat, on a play that would forever be remembered as “The Holy Roller.” Down six points to the San Diego Chargers with 10 seconds remaining in the game, Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler fumbled the ball. The ball rolled 13 yards to the Chargers 11, where running back Pete Banaszak batted it toward the goal line. At the 5, a quick thinking Casper continued the ball’s forward progress with his foot before finally falling on it in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

Casper played six and a half seasons with the Raiders. During that time he was named All-Pro and All-AFC four times and was selected to play in four Pro Bowls. Midway through the 1980 season he was traded to the Houston Oilers for a first-round and two second-round draft picks. There he was reunited with Stabler who was traded to the Oilers at the start of the season. Casper finished the season with 56 receptions and was named to his fifth Pro Bowl. In 1984, after a brief stint with the Minnesota Vikings, Casper returned to the Raiders finishing his career with 378 receptions for 5,216 yards and 52 touchdowns.  {1}

Left Tackle: Rayfield Wright

Rayfield Wright, the Dallas Cowboys seventh round draft pick in the 1967 draft, was given little chance of making the team’s final roster. But the Fort Valley (GA) State All-America demonstrated enough determination and raw athleticism that the coaching staff knew they somehow needed to work him into the lineup.

During his first three seasons the 6-6, 255-pound Wright was used as a tight end, defensive end, and offensive tackle. In 1969 when tackle Ralph Neely was injured, Coach Tom Landry decided to insert Wright into the lineup. His first opponent was future Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones. “The Deacon is big and strong and mean,” Wright was cautioned by his line coach. “Well,” said the confident Wright, “so am I.”

Wright’s performance against Jones was good enough that before training camp opened in 1970, Landry announced that Wright would be his starting tackle. One season later he was named All-NFL. Known as “Big Cat,” Wright earned first- or second-team All-NFL honors six consecutive times (1971-1976). He was also selected to play in the Pro Bowl following each of those seasons.

Wright’s performance during the 1975 season was particularly impressive. Coming off knee surgery, many questioned whether “Big Cat” would even play. Not only did he play, but he again notched All-NFL honors into his career belt. In postseason play he faced three legendary defensive ends – Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood, Pittsburgh Steelers L.C. Greenwood, and Minnesota Vikings Carl Eller – head on. Each time he rose to the occasion with exceptional play.

“He was truly outstanding,” Youngblood summarized of Wright’s play in the playoff game. As for his performance against Eller, longtime Cowboys offensive line coach Jim Myers proclaimed that Rayfield “played as well or even better in that game.”

“An all-day fight with Rayfield Wright definitely is not my idea of a pleasant Sunday afternoon,” Eller once offered. “I think he is pretty much of a composite of an all-pro tackle. He has size, strength, and quickness. The big thing in Rayfield’s favor is that he has a lot of range. He moves faster than most tackles. He’s just difficult to play against.”

Myers summarized Wright’s overall career this way. “We tried to make a tight end out of Rayfield. Then we tried him on the defensive line. And then he made a great coach out of me.” {1}

Left Guard: Jerry Kramer

Jerry Kramer spent his 11-year NFL career with the Green Bay Packers as a 6’3″, 250 pound. Kramer was an integral part of the famous “Packer Sweep,” a signature play in which both guards rapidly pull out from their normal positions and lead block for a running back going around the end.

Kramer was an All-Pro five times, and a member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team in 1969, but surprisingly, even after appearing on the list of finalists ten times since becoming eligible, he has not been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He was rated #1 in the NFL Network’s Top 10 list of players not in the Hall of Fame.

: Jim Otto

Some people say that playing on the offensive line has no glory. But it’s difficult to imagine any one player dominating the honors at one position more completely than Jim Otto did both in the American Football League and in the National Football League from 1960 through 1974.

The Wausau, Wisconsin, native joined the newly founded Oakland Raiders in 1960 and, for the next 15 seasons, he was the only starting center the Raiders ever had. He was one of only three players who saw action in each of his team’s 140 regular season games over the

AFL’s ten-year history, and he played with such skill that in its entire history, the AFL never had another all-league center.

Otto, who starred as a center and linebacker at the University of Miami in Florida, won All-AFL acclaim 10 straight seasons. He was All-NFL in 1970 and 1971, and then earned second-team All-NFL honors in 1972. Not surprisingly, he was named to the all-time All-AFL team following the 1969 season.

During his 15-year career, he participated in each of the nine AFL All-Star games that were played and in the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl the first three seasons that postseason classic was scheduled. Jim never missed a game. When he retired following the 1974 season, he had started in 210 straight games in regular season but had played in 308 games as a Raider.

During that period, the Raiders, who had once been AFL doormats, rose to prominence. Oakland won seven divisional championships in an eight-year period from 1967 through 1974. The 1967 Raiders became AFL champions and played against the NFL’s Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl II. Throughout this time span, Otto was a tower of strength as the anchor of the Raiders’ talented offensive line. {1}

Right Guard: Larry Allen

Larry Allen was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys out of Sonoma State College (CA) in the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft. An 11-time Pro Bowl selection, Allen played 12 seasons with the Cowboys and earned a Super Bowl ring with the team in Super Bowl XXX.

He played his final two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before signing a one-day contract with the Dallas Cowboys, allowing him to retire with the organization that drafted him. In his career, he played in more Pro Bowls than any other Dallas Cowboys offensive player in franchise history.

At 6′ 3″, 325 pounds, Allen is regarded as possibly one of the physically strongest men to have ever played in the NFL, having recorded a bench press of 692 pounds.

Right Tackle: Forrest Gregg

During the 15 seasons that he played in the National Football League, Forrest Gregg could have been described as one of the best ever to play his position in the history of the game. A native Texan, Forrest starred in college at Southern Methodist and was the Green Bay Packers’ No. 2 draft pick in 1956.

Even though, at 6-4 and 249 pounds, he was considered small for the job, he was ticketed from the start for the offensive right tackle position. Realizing that he would never be able to overpower the monstrous defensive left ends that would be pouring in on him, Forrest went right to work learning how to finesse them. He spent countless hours watching coaches’ films of the most noted stars. It wasn’t long before he knew the moves of every opponent and had perfected ways to combat them.

Forrest earned an “iron-man” tag by playing in a then league record 188 consecutive games from 1956 until 1971, his final season which he spent with the Super Bowl bound Dallas Cowboys. As the Packers grew in stature in the 1960s, so too did Gregg. He won All-NFL acclaim eight straight years from 1960 through 1967 and was selected to play in nine Pro Bowls.

In 1961 and again in 1965, when injuries created a crisis on the Packers’ offensive line, Gregg willingly switched to guard to fill the void. In 1965, one major wire service named him an All-NFL at guard, the other picked him as its all-league tackle. A most fitting tribute came from the late Vince Lombardi who was blessed with many great stars during the dynasty years in Green Bay. But Vince, in his book, “Run to Daylight,” stated simply: “Forrest Gregg is the finest player I ever coached!” {1}

Right End: Jackie Smith

Jackie Smith, a 6-4, 235-pound tight end, was a fixture for 15 years with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1963 to 1977. He finished his career with the Dallas Cowboys in 1978. At the time of his retirement, he ranked as the all-time receiver among tight ends with 480 receptions for 7,918 yards and 40 touchdowns.

An outstanding football and track competitor at Northwestern Louisiana, Smith was the Cardinals’ 10th-round draft pick in 1963. Smith was a talented receiver, a punishing blocker, a fierce competitor and an excellent runner after he caught the ball. He even handled the Cardinals’ punting chores his first three seasons.

Smith became the Cardinals’ starting tight end during his 1963 rookie season and remained a fixture at that spot the rest of his tenure in St. Louis. He gave notice of things to come when he gained 212 yards on nine receptions against Pittsburgh that year.

The team’s offensive co-captain, Smith had one string of 45 straight games from 1967 to 1970, with at least one reception. He played in 121 straight games starting with his first NFL contest and continuing until a knee injury sidelined him in his ninth season in 1971.

Injuries slowed him again in 1975 and 1976 but Smith still played in 198 games. Smith played in five straight Pro Bowls from 1967 through 1971, and was named All-NFL in 1967 and 1969. He had his single season best performance in 1967 when he recorded 56 receptions for 1,205 yards and nine touchdowns.

During his career, he caught more than 40 passes seven different years. His 16.5-yard average per reception is a reflection of both his excellent speed and determined running style. {1}

{1} – Biography from the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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17 comments on “The Dubsism All-Time Offensive Line Team

  1. sportsattitudes
    February 7, 2012

    Lots of memories in this post. Just seeing the images of these guys bring back memories of a time when you only got to see a couple of games a week…not all of them. A very nice tribute to the “trenches” indeed. For some reason, after reading this I even found myself wishing the two “conferences” didn’t play each other at all until the Super Bowl. Two leagues trying to outdo each other was awesome for those of us who can remember it. A number of these players conducted their business just as…or just after…the merger took place. Great players all.


    • J-Dub
      February 7, 2012

      I’d be willing to bet that half the readers of this blog never even heard of half of these guys. That’s ok though, I don’t mind being the “old guy” who points out the glories of yesteryear.


  2. Sam's Sports Brief
    February 7, 2012

    Great, comprehensive analysis. I have two issues, though: 1. No Orlando Pace? When he was with the Rams, he was an absolute stud and deserves a place on this list. 2. I think Mike Ditka should be higher than on the third team, he is arguably the toughest player to ever put on a football helmet.


    • J-Dub
      February 8, 2012

      Pace was a name who went far during the consideration of this list. Pace lost out to Rayfield Wright on this list because Wright was a better all-around player. Wright could’ve been an All-Pro as a tight end as well as a tackle. And while there may never have been a better pure run-blocker, he spent the back half of his career as a less-than-effective pass blocker.

      Funny you mention Ditka. If you recall, we made a whole standard for end play which in the first draft was called the “Ditka” standard, but then we realized Pete Pihos was doing what Ditka did 15 years earlier.


      • Sam's Sports Brief
        February 8, 2012

        True what you said about Pace. When he was on the Bears, he was totally ineffective. I think his glory days here almost as good as any, though.

        I’d put Ditka over Tony Gonzalez, too.


      • J-Dub
        February 8, 2012

        I get your love of Ditka. If I were picking a team that were playing its games in 1965, Ditka’s my guy.

        I got to sit next to him on a plane once. He is a very fun guy to listen to when he’s telling stories.


  3. Great post, man.

    I wonder when it’s all said and done whether we’ll be seeing Jake Long’s name anywhere on this list.

    And it’s too bad Kellen, Jr. doesn’t have a little more of his pops in him.


  4. aFrankAngle
    February 8, 2012

    There are so many good lineman, someone else could put together a different team without any of these guys, and be very good. For instance, Gene Hickerson (Browns) was awesome. Good job.


    • J-Dub
      February 8, 2012

      Great call on Hickerson. I’m having a bit of fun watching the names that didn’t make my list, but did get a lot of consideration.


  5. Melissa Pihos
    February 17, 2012

    Thank you for the article about my Dad, Pete Pihos and the other greats whom he admired. Melissa Pihos


  6. sportsattitudes
    February 17, 2012

    Pete’s career ended just before I was born…but I recall growing up here how other players were being evaluated/compared to him…in the hopes the Eagles would “get a guy like Pete.”


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