- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
As skilled AS he is at knocking down football players, Bengal offensive tackle Anthony Munoz is just as well known in Cincinnati for helping people get on their feet. Since coming to the NFL in 1980, Munoz has begrudged every inch of ground he has given up to the league's best pass rushers, yet he has given tirelessly of himself to God, family and community.
A 6'6", 285-pound man-mountain, he is considered the best in the business at an either-he-goes-on-his-backside-or-I-go-on-mine job. He is held in equally high regard for his compassion in working with handicapped and underprivileged children and speaking to teenagers on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. This all comes in one package.
"I don't see any contrast between what he does and the way he is," says DeDe Munoz, his wife of 12 years. "Ever watch him? It's an artistic way of playing the offensive line. He makes it look easy."
To appreciate an artist is to admire his work, so Bengal offensive line coach Jim McNally played a game tape recently to illustrate why Munoz, 32, is considered the premier tackle of the last decade. "When Anthony came here," says McNally, who also joined the team in 1980, "most of the defensive ends were 250 pounds. Anthony would get 15 to 20 of what we call 'pancakes' in a game. That's when you drive the guy off his feet, and he winds up on his butt. Now, most of the ends are going 280. So Anthony might get only five or six pancakes a game. But I don't see where he's lost anything.
"Watch, here he's pushing the guy right past the quarterback. Now, watch. See the change of direction The rusher changes and Anthony doesn't fall down. That's tremendous balance.
"Our offense is a run-to-daylight philosophy. The offensive lineman doesn't really blast off; he takes a step and makes a read and then finishes the guy off. See, here they're stunting, and he reads it. He stops the inside guy and still gets a piece of the guy coming from the outside. In this one it looks as if he's beat, and he still kind of cuts the guy at the last second. Anthony always makes the right adjustment."
When Munoz is protecting quarterback Boomer Esiason, it looks as if the right defensive end, often the opposition's best pass rusher, is being pushed into the parking lot. The pass rusher is being killed with the kindness of Munoz, who uses his strength, athleticism (he has caught four touchdown passes on tackle-eligible plays), quick mind and desire to succeed. That's a tough combination to beat.
"He has the best feet of any tackle I've gone against," says Houston Oiler defensive end William Fuller. "Because he has such good hand-foot coordination, you never catch him out of position."
Buffalo Bills defensive end Bruce Smith was beating long odds when he blew by Munoz twice in the first six Bengal passing attempts in the 1988 AFC Championship Game. However, what promised to be a magnificent show of man-to-man combat petered out when Smith suffered a leg injury and played at reduced effectiveness for the remainder of the game, which Cincinnati won 21-10.
"I think if that hadn't happened," says Smith of the leg injury, "I would have probably had the best game of my life, and it probably would have been his worst. I felt like nobody could stop me. There are no comparisons between him and other tackles. He's proven it year after year that he's the best."