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The Value of the O Line

I was running this morning, day 2 of the new program thank you, and got to thinking about professional football. I was pondering the impact of a great offensive line on the ultimate success of a professional football team. My mind drifted back to the 1990’s, and the Dallas Cowboys. That offensive line was one of the most dominant in the history of the NFL. I make that claim without personal bias, as I freely admit that I am not even a fan of America’s Team. Still I respect those Cowboy teams that Jimmy Johnson led to such overwhelming and consistent success. The names that stick out are the stars. Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman, Moose, Emmit, Jay Novacek, but the thing that truly made the team dominant was unquestionably the offensive line. I could look up the names of the linemen on Google, but to be honest I can’t name one off the top of my head. If you want names, I will let you find them on your own. Not knowing their names is really what provoked this thought to begin with.

Now imagine that you could juxtapose a football team into an office setting. No, not like the Terry Tate Reebok Commercial. You would have your stars, whose names you knew by heart, and you would have your linemen – the unsung heros. The stars would likely fill roles like CEO, VP, the Top Sales Personnel, the CMO, the CFO etc… They would drive the flashy cars, do the interviews with Business Week and Time, and enjoy all the spoils of victory. While the linemen would handle the less glamourous things like customer service, administration, and infrastructure support. It is the linemen that truly put people like Troy Aikman and Emmit Smith in the hall of fame. Don’t get me wrong. Troy and Emmit are incredible, but there are many incredible individuals in the NFL. It is a team effort, and to be great takes a dominant O Line to successfully execute each and every play. In an office, the linemen play a big part in delivering value to the customer- silently executing play after play without any of the accolades or the warm glow of the limelight.

As companies continue to downsize, and rightsize, and offshore, and outsource, I ask…Are they in danger of cutting that which truly makes them special, the O Line, while still expecting to make it to the hall of fame? Now, if NFL teams were traded like stocks, the superbowl champ would rarely, if ever, have the highest stock price. People would talk about the great profitablity and lean operations of the 1990’s Bengals, not the exuberance, extravagance, and domination of the Cowboys. Success depends largely on how you define it. Without question, every team needs to make regular changes to remain competitive. You have to keep the best players, and you can only have so many on the team. Still, as you look to raise that stock price yet another dollar by slashing yet another group of jobs, remember the importance that having a great O Line makes. Remember the impact of the unsung heroes. They don’t always make the highlight reels and rarely show up as assets on a balance sheet. but they make great players hall of famers. They create legends. Their impact is far flung and resonates endlessly-randomly deciding to mainfest itself in the groggy, oxygen-starved mind of a novice jogger and amateur blogger like me.

Oh, and if you think you might fit into the role of quarterback, it might serve you well to treat your O Line to some gold watches, or a steak dinner or at least some Starbucks.