When the movie "The Blind Side" came out in theaters in 2009, it gave allowed us to learn a lot more about Michael Oher. We learned about all of the hardships he went through in making it to the NFL. The movie itself very accurately portrayed Oher's rise from nothing to something.
In addition to all of this, I felt the movie gave football fans more of an appreciation for one of the most under appreciated positions in our sport: Left Tackle. Don't worry, punters, your day will come soon enough. I can see it now "The Real Dirk: The Rise And Fall Of NFL Punter Dirk Johnson"....
But really, it's actually one of the most important positions in the game itself. They are the guys who has the QB's back on any given down, and protects their blind side when some of the league's best pass rushers. By far, it's one of the most crucial positions on the football field. As we move through the years of football, you see teams drafting "cornerstone left tackles" when reconstructing an offensive line. Jake Long, Trent Williams, and most recently, Matt Kalil are evidence of this claim.
Last week, the New England Patriots lost one of the most important figures on their team, as starting left tackle Matt Light retired from the NFL after 11 years of service, all with New England. During his tenure, Light earned pro-bowl berths in 2006, 2007 and 2010 and was an All-Pro in 2007. He, along with Tom Brady and Kevin Faulk were the three playes on the 2011 roster who lasted through every Super Bowl run in the 2000's.
Now that Light is sailing off into the Nantucket sunset, the question of where he ranks in terms of where he ranks at his position in team history. In my eyes, the top five most successful Patriot left tackles (in no order) are Light, Bruce Armstrong, Leon Gray, Brian Holloway and Don Oakes. Specifically, Light and Armstrong are in my top two. From a success standpoint, I fully believe that Matt Light has been the most successful of the bunch.
When looking at both of their resumes, Armstrong seems to win the top spot by a landslide. He's got more Pro Bowl selections, starts, weekly accolades, and he's already in the Patriots hall of fame. As a young Patriots fan, I had the privilege of watching Armstrong flat out dominate opposing defensive ends. He in my mind, is the greatest left tackle in team history, based on talent. Hands down.
It's clear that Armstrong has more accolades to his name. He's got more hardware in his den than Light does. However, Light has the hardware that every NFL player covets each and every moment of their career.
In common dictionaries, the word "success" is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. In the National Football League, the "aim or purpose" is to lift that Lombardi trophy high above their head as the confetti poors down upon them. The aim or purpose of any given football player, is to win a Super Bowl.
So when determining who was a more successful left tackle out of the two of these players, it's an easy choice. Matt Light got to experience the above on three separate occasions. Bruce Armstrong never even got to taste the celebratory champagne after reaching the postseason, because he was never there.
During his amazing 11-year career with the Patriots, Light established himself as one of the most successful postseason left tackles the game has ever seen. Light started 17 postseason games at left tackle, and the Patriots were 13-4 when he started in the postseason.
He's played in five Super Bowls, and helped three of them. Because of his efforts in protecting Tom Brady's blind spot and paving the way for a flurry of Patriot rushers, the franchise was able to win it's only three Super Bowls within a four year period. While this was all done by committee, Light certainly played a big part in it.
In those Super Bowls, specifically in 2001, everyone had to do their job in order to win, but none more so than Light. I guarantee you that without Light, the Patriots don't win that Super Bowl. As a rookie left tackle, Light had huge responsibility in helping hold off one of the league's better pass rushes from getting to a younger, more inexperienced Tom Brady. Not to mention, he had help create holes for a bigger running back corp in Faulk, Antowain Smith and J.R. Redmond. He handled all of this with poise and determination, and it helped bring a feeling that New England hadn't felt in a few years: The thrill of a Championship.
When we rank NFL quarterbacks in today's discussions, there are many factors that come into ranking them. Take Dan Marino for instance. He at one time held the single-season passing yardage record until this year. He threw for an unprecedented career 61,316 yards over his 242 career games in the NFL. Yet, he still doesn't crack most people's top-five. Do you know why? He never won a Super Bowl. Dan Marino wasn't as successful as other quarterbacks like Steve Young and Terry Bradshaw, guys he statistically trumped, because they had rings and he didn't.
And it's no different from being a left tackle, or at any position for that matter. Success is measured in postseason achievement by most critics today. LeBron James is a tremendously talented basketball player, but he's not been a tremendously successful basketball player. By no means am comparing Bruce Armstrong to LeBron, but he was a similar status. He was one of the best at his position during his career, but he never achieved the ultimate goal in winning a championship.
With all of that being said, it's easy to say that Matt Light is the most successful left tackle in New England Patriots history. And It's not even close. Happy retirement, Matt Light. You've done great things, and we'll miss you.