Thursday, July 19, 2007

Memo to Alan Faneca:
It's a Young Man's Game

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that Alan Faneca "said he will play for another team in 2008" because of the lack of progress in contract negotiations with the team.

Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic has been reticent about jumping on this issue, after all a lot of the bluster and hyperbole of contract negotiation is just that and is soon forgotten once a deal is reached. However the whining of the Steelers' greatest offensive lineman -- ever -- was motivation enough to look at the numbers that underlie this controversy.

Using information available on the 119 offensive guards listed on the respective NFL team's depth charts (rookies excluded) have an average of 5.08 years of NFL experience (the median number of years of experience is 4). Moreover only eleven of the 119 offensive guards (9.24%) have ten seasons or more of NFL experience. Clearly, NFL coaches and personnel managers seem predisposed to younger, and less expensive, interior offensive linemen. However, the question is should they be?

Here is a look at those offensive guards with ten years of NFL experience, and the number of games they started in 2006:

TeamPlayerNFL Experience2006 Games Started
HoustonSteve McKinney106
JacksonvilleChris Naeole1116
MiamiKendyl Jacox108
N.Y. JetsPete Kendall1214
PittsburghAlan Faneca1016
San DiegoMike Groff1016
TennesseeBenji Olson1015
CarolinaMike Wahle1013
ChicagoRueben Brown1316
San FranciscoLarry Allen1411
SeattleChris Gray1515

Other than Houston, Miami, San Francisco, and Tennessee the teams for which these elder statesmen play are playoff caliber (and the 49ers and Titans seem poised for a resurgence), and the average number of starts amongst these players is 13.28 so it isn't a case a veteran players hanging on for a paycheck. Is it possible that offensive linemen on the wrong side of 30 years of age can still contribute? In special cases -- much like Alan Faneca's case -- it seems quite plausible. While he may not garner Steve Hutchinson type money ($49 million, $16 million guaranteed), barring injury Mr. Faneca can certainly be expected to make a significant contribution to his team (whatever team that ends up being) for an additional 3 to 5 seasons.

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