It’s not easy to quantify the success of an offensive lineman.
You can look at rushing stats, sacks allowed and the like, but more than any other position, the best judge is the eye test. And Jonathan Ogden passed in ridiculous fashion over his 12 seasons with the Ravens.
Ogden didn’t make too many mistakes, often bullying opposing linemen in creating holes for Baltimore rushers while keeping his quarterback upright. He made some of the best defenders to play the game look far inferior as he bowled them over and pushed them around.
That level of play is what made Ogden most proud as he reflected on his career during the months leading up to his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction tonight in Canton, Ohio.
“My career was really solid. The one thing that I can say about my career was how I played really consistent football,” Ogden said. “I never really looked back and said, ‘Man, if I would have done this, that or the other.’ I always felt like I gave my all, and I was always consistent out there. I think that’s kind of what led me to become a great player. This game is about consistency at the end of the day. I think that’s probably about it there. ...
“On the football field, I just want to be remembered as the guy who was dependable, who was a good teammate, who didn’t go out there and make silly mistakes, you knew he was going to be there game-in game-out, day-in day-out, had his teammates back out there.”
And for that work, Ogden was honored again and again.
The 6-foot-9, 345-pound left tackle was an All-Rookie pick in 1996 - his only year at left guard - before reeling off 11 straight Pro Bowl selections to finish his career (1997-2007). He was a 10-time All-Pro, starting his career with nine straight nods (1996-2004) before adding his final one in 2006.
Ogden was a crucial member of the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV champion team at the end of the 2000 season. He cleared space for running back Jamal Lewis in 2003 during his franchise-record 2,066-yard campaign.
Plus he was durable, ending his career ranked third in all-time games played by a Raven (177) and second in games started (176).
Football IQ played a large role in that success. Ogden was known for keeping a notebook on opposing pass rushers to track tendencies and recall how to block them.
“The notebook disappeared a few years ago. I don’t know what happened to it,” Ogden said. “They always say the quarterback and offensive lineman need to be the smartest - quarterback maybe, but O-line definitely. It’s all about how quickly you can read and process what’s happening on the field and understand what the defense is trying to do to you. Where is that safety rotating down from? Where is that linebacker, the lineman - is he inside? All these things that, when you play long enough, you can get a tip, and when you can get a tip, you don’t hesitate.
“So definitely, the smarter you are, the less hesitation you have in what you’re going to do, the better football player you’re going to be. I always prided myself on never hesitating, because I always knew my assignment.”
How did he develop the football knowledge and instincts?
“Part of it is natural. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “But I also had really good coaching in high school. My line coach - a guy named David Mohler - he played at St. Albans, but then he went to North Carolina. Harris Barton was one of his teammates, and he got a lot of his information when he was there, and he brought that to us when I was at St. Albans. So I never had to really unlearn bad habits. I always knew how to keep a wide base, try to keep my back straight and my head up - all the things that people take for granted that you should know how to do.
“But I never had to unlearn any of those bad habits that a lot of people had. So when I got to UCLA, my football IQ was more advanced than some other high school guys because I had tremendous coaching. I want to thank him for that. I can thank him in my speech.”
Making Ogden’s induction all the more meaningful to Baltimore is that he was the Ravens’ first-ever draft pick (fourth overall in 1996) and is the first Ravens draftee inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“It feels great,” he said. “When I was playing, I was just out there working. I couldn’t help the fact that I was the Ravens’ first pick. It just kind of happened, and in my mind, all I wanted to do was help the guys win and go out there, so I don’t look at it in that perspective. When I do step outside of myself and look at it, it’s like, ‘Wow, that guy - he had it pretty good,’ if that makes sense. It’s hard in my own perspective to view it that way though.”
Going into the 1996 draft, Ogden wasn’t expecting to be selected by the Ravens.
“There was some surprise, yes, because all the draftniks, all the people were saying that, ‘You were going to go to the Cardinals with the third pick. You are going to go to the Cardinals,’ ” he said. “That was getting beaten into my head the whole time. So when the third pick came up, and they picked Simeon Rice, I was a little surprised. I knew things could always happen, but I was raised to get up when I heard the phone ring in the green room. Then Baltimore came on the clock next, and I knew I had taken the trip down to visit them, and I was like, ‘Oh, you know. It seemed like an interesting organization because nothing was established yet.’
“When I got that call I was a little bit in shock, because one, I wasn’t expecting to go to Baltimore and two, I didn’t really know what to expect with Baltimore. After I talked to Ozzie (Newsome) and I talked to Mr. (Art) Modell, and I got an idea of what their plans were for Baltimore, I got excited after that. I said, ‘I’m going to be a part of something here, and I’m going to help us build a winner here.’ “
Now that his life in football is over, Ogden is living the simpler life of fatherhood.
“At the present time, I enjoy - because we have an 18-month-old daughter and an 8-year-old son - I’m enjoying just being the dad, staying at home,” he said. “In the near future, I still have my foundation work as well, in Baltimore. That’s not to say I’m not looking to expand and do a few more things. Exactly what? I’m not sure, but I’m sure things will pop up. As of now, I’m definitely very happy in the life that I’m living because raising children is hard work. They’re tough little (rascals), and you have to stay on top of them.”
Ogden’s election and upcoming induction into the Hall make this a special year for the Ravens.
The organization first found out it’d have its first born-and-bred Hall of Famer just days before winning the Super Bowl. Ogden feels the significance.
“You look at it, and you’re like, ‘This can’t really be happening,’ ” he said. “It just seems like a storybook, like somebody really isn’t going into the Hall of Fame while their team is playing in the biggest game on the planet in one of the best towns on the planet in New Orleans. And that ovation that I got at the coin toss was unbelievable. Then the whole drama of the game ... We end up winning. It could not have been a better weekend.
“I told them the only thing that could have made the weekend better is if Art Modell would have gotten into the Hall of Fame with me at the same time. That was the only thing that could have been better. Everything else was perfect. You get very few chances in life to say that.”