The 2019 campaign will be the 100th season of the National Football League. To help celebrate this occasion the Mount Rushmores of each position will be revealed. There will be no Mount Rushmore of gunners or H-backs or slot cornerbacks. The main positions will suffice.
The heads of four U.S. Presidents were sculpted in granite on the side of a mountain in South Dakota. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln are the four. They represent the birth, growth, development, and preservation of the country. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know, but it seems right so we will go with it. If we wanted to simply focus on the four greatest, best, most technically sound, gorgeous, fancy quarterbacks one could probably select four active or recently retired quarterbacks and get many readers to agree. That, however, would not be an appropriate Mount Rushmore. This project calls for a pioneer at the position in question although that player does not have to have necessarily played within the first 40 years of the league. It calls for a player who in most cases followed the template or improved upon what the pioneer presented. Then there will be a player who developed the position even further. The final selection will be a guy who preserved the position, who used his play to say, “I am the prototype.”
The first position to be revealed is the center position. Note: I do not claim to be an expert on any positions. I am not a coach so I will not or cannot get super technical. I will try to keep these posts short and sweet. Sometimes very short. Expansion will occur at positions of great interest.
Mel Hein (New York Giants, 1931-45) is the clear pioneer at this position. In 1938 Hein was named the league MVP and led the Giants to the league title. Film study reveals Hein to be a physically imposing player and an impenetrable blocker.
Jim Otto (Oakland Raiders, 1960-74) was the first great center who had to regularly deal with 3-4 defenses. Prior to Otto’s era, the center was usually the weakest lineman. This was the case because the center was usually involved in a chase as opposed to a violent encounter at the line of scrimmage. The center would often block a middle linebacker. Otto grew the position by providing a template for the new age center who would have to mix it up a little more at the line of scrimmage after odd fronts began to litter the league roughly halfway through his career.
Mike Webster (Pittsburgh Steelers 1974-88, Kansas City Chiefs 1989-90) developed the position. Webster played in an era where the 3-4 defense was prevalent. He had many encounters with vicious defensive tackles but also had the requisite quickness, agility and flexibility to handle middle linebackers. He was a key cog in the rugged Pittsburgh running attack.
Dwight Stephenson (Miami Dolphins, 1980-87) was a brilliant blocker. It was extremely difficult to go up against Stephenson and sack the quarterback or stop a runner for no gain. Nullification of defensive tackles and middle linebackers reduced to flotsam was a regular occurrence when the Dolphins offense was on the field during the Stephenson era.1
- Note from Bryan: I would like to thank the enigmatic football genius known as Raiderjoe for enriching the site with his Rushmore series, beginning with centers. ↩