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Questions from The Blind Side

Two years ago Michael Lewis published Moneyball, the story of the improbable success of the Oakland A’s. For sports economists this book sparked much discussion and specifically inspired the work of Jahn Hakes and Skip Sauer, previously discussed in this forum.

Now Lewis has moved on to the sport of football. In The Blind Side, Lewis focuses on a position often overlooked by football fans, the left offensive tackle. The job of the left offensive tackle is to protect the right-handed quarterback’s blind side. The importance of this job is highlighted by the pay these players receive. As Lewis notes: “By the 2004 NFL season, the average NFL left tackle salary was $5.5 million a year, and the left tackle had become the second highest paid position on the field.”

Like Moneyball, I expect this excellent book to generate questions of interest to the sports economist. Two questions leap to mind.

1. Are left-handed quarterbacks more likely to be sacked? These quarterbacks are protected by right offensive tackles who – according to Lewis -- should be inferior in talent to those on the left. I asked this question at The Wages of Wins Journal (where a more complete review of this book is offered). The discussion revealed that the sample of left-handed quarterbacks was probably too small for systematic inquiry.

2. The lack of left-handed quarterbacks suggests some form of discrimination. Does the lack of lefties at the quarterback position extend to the college and high school ranks? If not, why are these players unable to take the field in the NFL?

There have been a few successful lefties. Steve Young and Michael Vick are two names that leap to mind. Mobility is the calling card of each of these signal callers. Can a left handed quarterback survive as a classic drop back passer? Or is the disparity between left and right tackles too difficult to overcome?

Okay, that’s more than two questions to ponder. Hopefully everyone can read this book and a few more questions can be asked. And maybe we can come up with some answers as well.