Cleveland Browns: The View from the O-Line is a revealing read
By Joel W. Cade
Cleveland Browns fans need to read former Browns offensive line coach Howard Mudd’s book, The View from the O-Line.
Offensive linemen have a difficult and thankless task. They are the unseen and unheard force that makes the offense work. When something goes wrong on the line, everybody can see it. When things go well, nobody even knows they are there.
Yet this, for some reason, is the appeal of the position, according to Cleveland Brown’s offensive lineman Joe Thomas:
"A lineman’s greatest satisfaction is winning the game and not having to do any interviews. That means you have done your job. Reporters want to talk to the running back who ran for 250 yards or the quarterback who threw for 300 yards. When they interview a lineman, it’s usually because bad things have happened."
If all of this seems out of place and nonsensical, then you need to read Howard Mudd’s book The View from the O-Line: Football According to NFL Offensive Linemen and an Uncommon Coach.
In this book, Mudd surveys the career of an offensive lineman from draft to retirement with the help of several current players and Hall of Famers.
He describes how many current and Hall of Fame linemen actually became offensive lineman. “I don’t think there’s really anyone out there who chooses to play offensive line,” former Indianapolis Colts Ryan Diem says in the book. “It chooses you.”
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The book takes you inside exactly what coaches are looking for in offensive linemen. It also shares experiences of many offensive linemen as they went through the draft process.
What makes a good offensive lineman? Answer: Intelligence and character. Mudd relates how his mentor, former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Bill “Tiger” Johnson, had a brown bag theory of offensive linemen:
"You can take all the offensive linemen in the NFL, put them in a bag, shake them around and throw them out there. Then you take two tackles, two guards, and a center. There won’t be a lot of differences. What separates them is intelligence and character. The physical part takes care of itself."
Fans with an appetite for the deeper professional debates over offensive line play will be fascinated by the chapters dedicated to the nuances of run and pass blocking. While pass blocking, should a blocker should give space or attack? Is the slide step, perfected by Joe Thomas, better than a hinge set when blocking a speed rusher or taking on inside stunts?
In the running game, Mudd explores the nuances of leverage and how it is attained. He also weighs in on the current state of offensive line play and how it is effected by the current collective bargaining agreement.
The casual fan will enjoy the many quotes from current and retired NFL lineman. The stories of Thomas’ exploits starting both ways as an offensive tackle and defensive end when Wisconsin took on Auburn in the Citrus Bowl is priceless.
The book does have its drawbacks. The fan looking for brilliant insights from the former coach will be disappointed with the later chapters. Instead of using the player quotes validation of the author’s point of view, the book allows the quotes to take over. The quotes take center stage with Mudd providing commentary upon them.
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If you are looking for insight into the offensive line position or simply wanting to know how football really works, The View from the O-Line is the best book on the market. It’s funny and insightful player quotes make the book. Even though they can take over at times, nothing gives the reader an “inside” view of the game than the players and coaches that make it happen.
I learned a lot reading this book. I highly recommend it. Four Stars.