A LOT TO COVER THIS WEEK…
A good NFL offense is like a perfectly functioning clique in college. In order for a team to score, the offense must work together to complete choreographed plays which move the ball down the field and into the end zone. Double entendres intended here, as this certainly makes for a great analogy about the process of getting laid. EXCUSE ME! I meant making a romantic connection. Apologies to my Mom, an extraordinary woman, but one who refuses to acknowledge any ‘boyfriends’ I’ve ever had over the years, referring to them only as my ‘new friends’. As such, I’m a little behind in the making-romantic-connections game. But take it from me! Below, please find offensive positions in the NFL as they relate to your social life, whether it be past, present OR future (because nothing changes except the location of the party).
YOU will function as the QUARTERBACK in this scenario and I’ll describe your offensive counterparts as either ‘friend’ or ‘potential romantic connection’.
IN THE NFL:
QBs initiate the action on the field and are responsible for communicating the play to the rest of the offense. A QB receives the football from the CENTER and then passes the ball to a receiver or hands the ball off to a rusher to gain yardage toward the end zone. If he’s pressured enough in the pocket by the opposing team’s defense, he may scramble to gain yardage himself. Two clarifications: the pocket describes an area created by the offensive line to protect the QB while he attempts a passing play, giving him time and space to find an open receiver to make that connection (with the ball). A scramble is the action a QB takes when he’s under pressure from defenders and opts to run outside of the pocket in an attempt to move the ball forward himself. It looks just like it sounds:
IN REAL LIFE:
Being a young adult is great but there’s no denying the social rules, regulations and drunk texts that make it treacherous terrain. You need back-up. You need friends! A good social circle is made up of good friends, best buddies, valued acquaintances and guys you’d like to deal with (or girls, of course, but I’ll be describing a girl-on-guy perspective because I write what I know). As the QB of your circle, you are responsible for initiating the action of your life but you’re never gonna get to second base (MIXING METAPHORS, WHAT IS HAPPENING) – that is, closer to that meaningful romantic connection with Super Hot Hottie McAttractiveson Coolface (known as SHHMC or ‘Shmick’) – without a little help from your friends to make the play.
CENTER or (C)
The CENTER starts with the ball and tosses it up to the QB (which is called a ‘snap’) to start the play. Not surprisingly, he is also positioned at the center of the front offensive line. ‘Under center’ is some lingo you may have heard – it just refers to whomever is receiving the snap. It’s also the CENTER’s job to read the Defense’s (opposing team’s) front line to try to anticipate where they might go at the start of the play, as the CENTER can give last minute directions to the offensive line who will block and create protection so that the QB can execute the play.
Friend. The CENTER is your best friend and your co-conspirator. She’s been there through it all, you may take her for granted from time to time, but CENTER knows that you couldn’t get anything done without her. She’s also the gossip liaison between you and the rest of your crew. Let’s say you were up for a big promotion at work. The last month was spent obsessing over the promotion with your friends, strategizing your take-over at the office and planning the best girls weekend ever when your boss officially gives you the good news… And then he gives the promotion to someone else. CENTER is the one to fill your friends in on the pertinent details, tell them you’re fine but don’t want to talk about it and then plan the next night out to un-celebrate. CENTER is comfortable with logistical switches in the game plan when trouble arises, like knowing which popcorn line to queue up in at the theater or intuiting which route home is most likely to be free of a sobriety check point.
LEFT AND RIGHT TACKLES or (T)
Tackles are offensive players who protect the QB from the opposing team’s defenders so that he has time to complete a play. They line up on the front line next to the two GUARDS (who are on either side of the CENTER). These players are skilled and enormous. The RIGHT TACKLE is used more in run blocking, protecting the running back by holding off members of the defense, thus creating space (a ‘hole’) allowing the running back to carry the ball for yardage. The LEFT TACKLE’s primary job is to protect the QB. Most QBs are right handed, so as the QB turns to throw the ball, he is ‘blind’ to defensive approaches from the left side. These defenders are trying to ‘sack’ the quarterback (taking him down, stopping the play).
Here’s my favorite sack of last year:
If you’ve seen The Blind Side, you know all about the role of the LEFT TACKLE. They make a ton of money because they are the on-field insurance policy protecting the team’s QB. They’ve hopefully got a great wingspan and strong legs to create a formidable wall and stop the advances of the most aggressive defensive players on the other team.
Friend. LEFT TACKLE is the friend who takes it upon herself to be your one-woman defense against the risky and ridiculous. She will take that 3rd drink out of your hand to prevent you from chatting up Shmick about your most recent ex, thus stopping you from describing all 63 ways you are so totally over him and so completely ready to move on because you’re actually more of a relationship girl which is something you know you shouldn’t tell a guy you just met and are super attracted to, but you just feel so comfortable and why not be honest for once, it’s refreshing, right? And why waste all that time getting to know each other when it seems like there might be a real soul mate connection right off the bat which shouldn’t dare be denied if we both want kids someday because neither of you are getting any younger, right? Right?
Sometimes you worry that you don’t give LT enough credit for the important role she plays in your social endeavors, but she seems honestly happy to have your back and keep you out of trouble. She’s probably already married or in a 3-years stable relationship and she just wants you to settle down, already.
RIGHT TACKLE is the friend who absolutely has your back, but uses less direct methods to prove it. For example; At your last birthday party she chatted up (distracted) Mimsy Prettyface at the dart board for 2 hours after hearing that Mimsy may have a thing for Schmick, the guy RT has been trying to get you to go out with for a month. While Mimsy was busy perfecting the arc of her dart toss (Mimsy’s always been a competitor), Schmick had time to get to you unscathed and plead his case for a romantic connection. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I remember that one working out. RT is the ultimate ‘take one for the team’ kind of friend.
WIDE RECEIVER or WR
The WIDE RECEIVERS line up on the outsides of the offensive line. Once the play starts, it’s their job to get away from the defenders and run down the field to catch the ball. The best WRs are incredibly fast, unbelievably agile, and able to torque themselves in any number of ways to catch the ball (height really helps here, too – see Mike Wallace, Calvin Johnson & Andre Johnson for current examples). It’s the QB’s job to look for an available receiver and throw the ball accurately into a zone where the receiver can catch it and complete the play. For the receiver, this can mean leaping across the back of a defender, plucking the spiraling ball from the air on one leg, with one hand and tucking it in for a touchdown. Here’s one of the more dramatic versions of this (in which an awesome connection won a game). This clip is a little gratuitous but I’m a 49ers fan, what else was I going to show you?
Potential romantic connection. Wide Receiver is the guy you obsess over, stay awake at night thinking about but can’t quite get the timing right to make a real connection. He’s wily, elusive and his confidence borders on arrogance. An irresistible combination. There’s nothing like the feeling of connecting with a WR guy. It feels like a job well done on your part, a real score. He has the potential to go the distance if you can just keep up with him and keep his head in the game. And he’s got a great set of hands. Just be careful – because of his fragile ego, WR is likely to blame you if the connection isn’t there and he’s known to drop the ball on plans at the first distraction (‘new Call of Duty came out today – totally lost track of the last 13 hours, babe’).
RUNNING BACK (FB or HB – Full back or Half back)
RUNNING BACKS help complete rushing plays, in which the QB hands off the ball to be carried down the field instead of launching it in the air for a receiver to catch (which is a passing play). The RB’s got to tuck the ball against his chest while he fights his way to the end zone, because defenders will try to ‘strip’ the ball (take it away – exactly what it sounds like) or create a fumble (causing the RB to lose the ball, which makes it fair game for recovery by either team). Rushing plays are a safer bet if a team has a weaker QB, since the play doesn’t rely on the accuracy or length of a throw. Once a ball is up in the air, it’s at great risk of being intercepted or ‘picked off’ by a member of the opposing team. The RB may also be used to receive short, lateral (screen) passes . This type of player is valuable for their strength in barreling through defenders, agility in running routes, and versatility in that he working on a many different types of plays. When an RB breaks through a wall of defenders and takes off, it’s INCREDIBLY satisfying:
Potential romantic connection. Your friends love the RB. They’ll do everything they can to protect and facilitate his attempts at making a play with you. He’s might not be as outwardly handsome as the wide receiver and his style might not sweep you off your feet, but he’s got strength, agility and unexpected tricks up his sleeve. You don’t have to make much of an effort with this one and that’s a good thing. He makes you feel comfortable. If you’re on the shy-er side, an RB guy may be the perfect type to coax you out of your shell. The connection you two make won’t seem as exciting at first but give until the 3rd date before you really form an opinion – that’s where his personality really shines. He may fumble over his words a little and have a few false starts, but just be clear about what you need from him, make sure you’ve got good friends around for support and you’ll be in for a really good time.
TIGHT END or (TE)
The role of the TIGHT END is two-fold. He acts as an offensive lineman, protecting and blocking so that the QB can make a play, but his is also a legal receiver sometimes known as a ‘safety valve’. He’s an additional target that the QB can look to if neither wide receivers are open and available. Tight ends are bigger than an average receiver as they are expected to block but they can make similar runs and should have a good deal of maneuverability. Some of the best scoring tight ends are: Antonio Gates (Chargers), Vernon Davis (49ers), Aaron Hernandez (Patriots) and Jermichael Finley, who is finally healthy again (Packers).
At best, the TIGHT END is the guy you can rely on when your attempts to close the deal with Schmick haven’t worked out. This is your friend with benefits. I’ve never had one of these, but the movies assure me that MOST people have an overly attractive friend with available benefits just waiting to be tapped for service, and I don’t want to make this column all about me. He’s got your back and has probably tried to set you up with one of his buddies, but he’s pretty adorable himself and can make a great last minute date if all of your potentials are occupied on a Saturday night and you don’t want to stay in, do laundry and catch up on Doctor Who. An unexpected hook up with TE can be a real thrill, though, so don’t take this relationship for granted. At worst, the TE is your best friend’s boyfriend who blocks the jerks from getting in your way and who gives you advice, but only if you ask for it. Pretty good deal.
The OFFENSIVE GUARDS (there are 2) line up on either side of CENTER and block the opposing teams defenders from getting to the QB or the RB, who benefits from the ‘holes’ created by GUARDS, while they keep the defensive players at bay. Watch the GUARDS and offensive line occupy the defenders on this play, allowing Adrian Peterson to take off and run his route into the end zone:
Your GUARD friends are the happy filler in your social circle. These friends are always invited to girls’ nights and you can certainly depend on them to make sure you get home from a party safely. They’re more of the ‘yes men’ in your circle. You can’t really go to them for advice (‘Should I wear the mini or the maxi to the BBQ?’), because they’ll just say you look amazing in everything, but some days you need a little more bolstering than others.
Okay. That was a lot to cover for one session. Are you still there? Next week we’ll dive into scoring. Much sexier, certainly.