I confess to have studied football far too much in my childhood. I was the only kid on the block that could tell you the five starting linemen of the 1970s Super Bowl teams of Minnesota: Grady Alderman; Ed White; Mick Tingelhoff; Milt Sunde; Ron Yary; and later Steve Riley.
I understood early the value of the offensive line. When my Vikings were great, we had many linemen that were of the All-Pro variety. Over the years that changed. We drafted White and Yary early in the 1968 and 1969 drafts. The results were three Super Bowls. After drafting Riley out of USC in 1974, the Vikings went 20 years without drafting a quality lineman early. Finally, in 1994 they drafted Todd Steussie of California. Then in 1995, they drafted Korey Stringer from Ohio State. It was in 1998 that the Vikings went 15-1, and should have begun a Super Bowl run like the 1970s.
In 2002 the Vikings selected Bryant McKinnie with the 7th selection overall. He would be the left tackle that would return Minnesota to prominence in the passing offense once again. He came in highly touted, as a Miami Hurricane All-American who did not give up sacks. Period. In my opinion, he played great early in his career, but the last few years he has shown some weaknesses. If you look at film of Favre getting crunched this year, more than half the time it is because McKinnie got beat. Bull rush, around the corner, twisting, looping, it has not mattered. McKinnie was looking easy to beat in most of 2008.
In the 2009 NFL Draft the Vikings knew that their line was in trouble. Matt Birk was gone to Baltimore, and the right side had been severely exposed throughout the season, nowhere more than in the playoff loss to the Eagles. Combine that with the failures of McKinnie, and something had to be done. On the board when the Vikings were to select their player with the 22nd pick was offensive tackle Michael Oher. A big, powerful, good-story tackle from Mississippi. But the Vikes chose Percy Harvin, the wide receiver from Florida. In the next round with the 54th selection, Minnesota addressed tackle issues with the choice of Phil Loadholt, from Oklahoma. Oher would be claimed by the Ravens right after Harvin was chosen, having traded with the Patriots to move up.
This year the Vikings' Percy Harvin has been worth it. He has electrified an offense by presenting as a player with a variety of skills, be it return, running, or receiving. Meanwhile, McKinnie looks a little better, helped by the quick decision-making of Brett Favre. It was the right decision to draft Harvin.
My family and I just went to see "Blind Side", the film using a Michael Lewis story about Michael Oher. The opening scene is highlighting the importance of left tackle in the NFL. It is a must see for anyone who is a football fan, or likes a feel-good story. Michael Oher was available to us with that 22nd pick in the draft. We needed him very badly. Instead, we went skill position and chose Loadholt later. After returning from this move, I question if we made the right move. My history tells me when we pick offensive linemen early, we see good results. This time, we found an incredible athlete in Harvin, but missed maybe a more incredible story of an offensive tackle. And McKinnie? Right Guard? Well... we are waiting.
Two thumbs up?