Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tauscher: A Tremendous Performer

By Bob McGinn

July 29, 2011

You'd almost have to go back to Sept. 1, 1986, when coach Forrest Gregg purged quarterback Lynn Dickey and tight end Paul Coffman, to recall a day like Friday in the annals of the Green Bay Packers.

Among the big names terminated was Mark Tauscher.

This isn't meant to be a full-blown analysis of Tauscher's career in Green Bay. This blog really isn't the vehicle for that.

Instead, let's just recall Tauscher by some of the numbers by which offensive linemen are measured.

To do so, it's inevitable that Tauscher has to be compared to Chad Clifton, his friend and fellow tackle. They were drafted together in 2000, they became starters together in 2000 and they were the team's starting tackles until the fourth game last season when Tauscher's season, and presumably career, ended with a torn rotator cuff against Detroit.

We know how really good Clifton has been for a really long time. Finally, he was selected for the Pro Bowl in 2010 after having been an alternate twice before. Tauscher never made the Pro Bowl, and if he ever was chosen as an alternate the club never released it.

Because of injury, Clifton has played more games than Tauscher. Counting playoffs, Clifton has played in 171 games, starting 166, whereas Tauscher played in 142 games, starting 140.

Clifton's margin in starts of 26 is a significant number when you start examining raw totals in various categories, as we shall do.

OK, let's start by looking at sacks allowed during each of their careers. If I've learned anything on this beat, it's that responsibility for sacks is what you think it is maybe 65% of the time. There are all kinds of variables that affect sack responsibility, and over the years I've done my level best to ascertain who truly was responsible for every sack allowed by the Packers.

SACKS ALLOWED: Tauscher 20 1/2, Clifton 37.

OK, let's move to "bad" runs. I started this in the late 1990s in an attempt to measure run blocking. I defined a "bad" run as a gain for 1 yard or less in non-goalline or non-short yardage situations. Why didn't I just say no gain or worse? Just an arbitrary decision.

BAD RUNS: Tauscher 82, Clifton 106 1/2.

OK, let's move to penalties. This total is for penalties that were accepted. Penalties that were declined or offsetting were not counted.

PENALTIES: Tauscher 28, Clifton 77.

The above three categories measure pass blocking, run blocking, poise and discipline. They do not consider that Clifton played LT and Tauscher played RT, and that by and large Clifton played against somewhat better opponents at RDE/ROLB than Tauscher did playing against LDE/LOLB.

But considering how well Clifton has played and continues to play, seeing how those numbers favor Tauscher are rather startling.

Clifton was blessed by better health. His one terrible injury was the separated pelvis that he suffered in Tampa Bay in 2002. Tauscher, on the other hand, suffered three: the torn ACL in New Orleans in 2002, the torn ACL in Houston in 2008 and the torn rotator cuff against Detroit in 2010. Each had other physical problems that kept them out of games.

Each year since the early 1990s, scouts from the division teams have picked an all-NFC Central and then all-NFC North team for the JS. Here's how Tauscher fared on those teams at RT:

2000: T3 behind Korey Stringer.

2001: 2nd behind Big Cat Williams.

2002: Injured.

2003: T1 with Mike Rosenthal.

2004: 2nd behind John Tait.

2005: 1st (unanimous).

2006: 2nd behind Fred Miller.

2007: 1st (unanimous).

2008: 2nd behind Tait.

2009: 3rd behind Phil Loadholt.

2010: Bryan Bulaga was the GB rep at RT.

So, in nine seasons, Tauscher was first three times, second four times and third twice. He was never fourth or fifth.

The point of all this should be rather obvious. Tauscher was one hell of a football player.

Over his 11 seasons, I must have talked to more than 100 scouts and assistant coaches about Tauscher's game. Some guys just could never get over the way he looked in a uniform. Over time, some almost grudingly came to admit that he was a solid player.

It's true. Tauscher didn't look exactly cut on the field. But he possessed remarkable athletic ability, remarkable powers of concentration and remarkable intangibles that made him a worthy successor to Earl Dotson at the position and a proud predecessor for Bulaga.

Tauscher was an acquired taste. One needed to see him play every game over a period of years to appreciate him. A four-game segment of a season or hurried off-season tape work wasn't enough.

When the waiting period is up, Tauscher will have his induction night into the team's Hall of Fame. That will be well-deserved, of course, but it might be a little too slick for No. 65.

Mark Tauscher doesn't need his name on a plaque or the Pro Bowl that now is skewed by fan voting to know what he accomplished. He just wanted to play the game well, and play it well he did.

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