THE CENTER OF IT ALL? REALLY?
In my short tackle football career, I remember offensive line coaches spouting that center is the most important position on the football field. In my 5-foot-8, 210-pound frame, I was lining up at tackle, but I still thought it was patronizing to the kid hiking the ball. Most important? Really? More important than anyone who is actually allowed to score? I didn't really buy it. But if my old coaches were on to something, the Cleveland Browns are having far worse luck this pre-season than they have had in any other.
First, LeCharles Bentley racks up his knee on the first day of training camp. Bentley, an OSU alum who has had a fine career in the NFL to this point, was one of the Browns best off-season acquisitions. He won't play a single down this year.
If that weren't enough, Bob Hallen, a Cleveland native and the best replacement the Browns could think of for Bentley, suddenly retired from chronic back injuries.
Looking at a third option for center, the Browns inked Alonzo Ephriam. All Alonzo has done is earn himself a four-game suspension from the league for violating the substance abuse policy.
What you've noticed from these links (providing you actually clicked on them) is that centers have no stats. None. Games played doesn't count. You don't hear anyone agonizing over who they're going to take as their fantasy center.
What a center does for a team cannot be quantified, so evaluating centers must be done somewhat subjectively. One must consider if he can snap the ball accurately 99 times out of 100, if he can run block, if he can pass block, and most importantly, if he is intelligent. The quarterback and the center are really the braintrust of the offense because everything begins with them. A center with no clue what is going on--even if he snaps the ball correctly--is likely to miss his blocking assignment and get plowed over by a 320-pound nose tackle.
Of course, when they mess up, centers draw attention. In a very similar yet slightly more-glorified roles, centers and long snappers are birds of the feather.
When young quarterback Charlie Frye steps under center in the first regular season game, it would be nice to know that he's getting the ball from an experienced, veteran center. These two players will need to develop a rapport. After all, they get to know each other "better" than any two others on the offense...if you know what I mean.
What this really means is Browns fans should expect a few fumbled snaps in the first few games of the season. At least they have the remaining pre-season games to try to work out the kinks.
Maybe the big plays from a healthy Braylon and a healthy K2 will make up for the miscues? Sure, if Frye can actually get the ball to drop back and make the pass.