Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Ogden defined an era and a franchise
By Jamison Hensley
When Jonathan Ogden makes his Hall of Fame speech Saturday in Canton, Ohio, he will talk about the people who helped him achieve this accomplishment. But the list of those who need to thank Ogden is much longer: the entire Baltimore Ravens franchise, the 15 starting quarterbacks he protected and all the left tackles who went in the first round in the years following him.
Ogden defined the blind side and convinced NFL decision-makers that left tackle was the second-most important position on offense behind quarterback. He was the one who got left tackles drafted high in the first round and paid millions of dollars. The Ogden Effect extends from Orlando Pace in 1997 to two left tackles (Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel) taken atop the 2013 draft.
Jonathan Ogden, the first pick in Ravens history, is the first homegrown Raven to make the Hall.
What separates Ogden from the tackles who played before and after him is a rare combination of athleticism, competitiveness and intelligence. In pass protection, Ogden frustrated edge rushers so much with his massive wingspan and graceful footwork that they would frequently move to go against the right tackle by the second quarter. In run blocking, he had the leverage and power of a bulldozer to drive a lineman 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. On screen plays, he would outrun his running backs downfield as the lead blocker.
"I've had the opportunity to be in this league for over 30 years, but in my opinion, there is not a player that played the position as well as Jonathan Ogden," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome once said.
Newsome, who is presenting Ogden at the induction, never thought he would get a chance to draft him when the Ravens were making the first pick in franchise history. Ogden was the No. 1 player on the Ravens' draft board in 1996, but Newsome was prepared to take running back Lawrence Phillips with the fourth overall pick.
Then, contrary to what everyone projected, the Arizona Cardinals didn't select Ogden and chose defensive end Simeon Rice at No. 3. That allowed the Ravens, who didn't have their colors, uniform or logo at that time, to grab Ogden.
"Jonathan is the foundation of this franchise," Newsome said.
Ogden went to 11 Pro Bowls, and the troubled Phillips was out of the league in three years. Without Ogden, there wouldn't have been a Super Bowl championship in the 2000 season and there wouldn't have been a 2,000-yard rushing season for Jamal Lewis in 2003. Ogden was the Ravens' best offensive player and the one around whom the team built the offense.
It's fitting that the Ravens' first overall pick becomes their first homegrown player to reach the Hall of Fame. He put the franchise on the right path.
"If we don’t pick Jonathan Ogden with that first pick," Newsome said, "I may not have this job."
HALL OF FAME: CLASS OF 2013
The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducts seven new members this weekend. Watch full coverage of the ceremony Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and online via ESPN3 and WatchESPN.com.
While it's been written repeatedly that Ogden is physically the prototypical left tackle, the secret to his success was a beat-up spiral notebook. It was a personal journal of sorts, in which Ogden kept detailed notes on every defensive end he's played twice.
With a few flips of a page, he could tell whether a player relies more on speed or power, a swim move or a clubbing style, quick feet or strong hands. Because of that, he had to watch only a half-hour of film each week on his own, just to verify his notes. Sadly, Ogden said, the notebook disappeared a few years ago.
"They always say the quarterback and offensive linemen need to be the smartest -- quarterback maybe, but O-line definitely," Ogden said. "It’s all about how quickly you can read and process what’s happening on the field and understand what the defense is trying to do to you. So definitely, the smarter you are, the less hesitation you have in what you’re going to do, the better football player you’re going to be. I always prided myself on never hesitating, because I always knew my assignment.”
Ogden was so respected that USA Today named him the No. 1 player in the NFL in 2003. While Ogden insists Anthony Munoz was a better player than him, he jokingly says he's become less modest since retiring in 2007. In February, he became the first pure offensive tackle to be voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility since Jackie Slater in 2001.
"On the football field, I just want to be remembered as the guy who was dependable, who was a good teammate, who didn’t go out there and make silly mistakes," Ogden said. "You knew he was going to be there -- game-in, game-out, day-in, day-out -- and had his teammates' back out there."
Ogden was more than dependable. He had a dominating career. He had a distinguished career. And come Saturday, he'll officially have a Hall of Fame career.