Is this the year that Mitchell Schwartz finally receives his due as one of the NFL’s top linemen and all the proper accolades that go with it.
To be frank, Mitchell Schwartz deserved this honor a year ago.
When we say mainstream, we don’t necessarily just mean appreciated. We also don’t mean recognized. When we say mainstream, we’re talking about the leap when a player becomes known to the casual fan, a player whose name is synonymous with the position he plays.
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Schwartz is at such a point. He’s also been here for quite some time. Last year, Pro Football Focus called him the best offensive lineman in the entire National Football League and said he was among the league’s best performers both in run blocking and pass blocking. He was also named a First Team All-Pro in 2018, a leap forward from his consecutive Second Team All-Pro honors from 2016-17. Through it all, he’s never once been named to a single Pro Bowl.
Let say restate this: Mitchell Schwartz, a man honored in each of the last three seasons as one of the best (if not the best) at his position, has never been named to a Pro Bowl.
In case you’re confused, the Pro Bowl is easier to make than the Associated Press All-Pro teams. The reason? There are a lot more slots available on a Pro Bowl. Each Pro Bowl is about being the best (or most popular) in your respective conference. All-Pro teams are a single team for the entire league. Being second-team All-Pro means being the second-best at your position. Being named First Team means being recognized as the best overall.
Somehow the Pro Bowl looks at Schwartz and yawns.
Perhaps a man like Schwartz should do the same with the Pro Bowl. That’s easy to say since he’s been given other awards, but any outside hopes that Schwartz has/had for a Hall of Fame career has likely been lost without those Pro Bowl nods. It’s silly but it’s one of the first things voters reach for when making a case. A player is often described as eight-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson or four-time Pro Bowler Travis Kelce. Given its place as the NFL’s All-Star exhibition, it’s a quick and easy way to differentiate a player as one of the league’s best without having to quote stats or get too into the weeds.
In Schwartz’s case, this is a major issue. Any player who is recognized as the best at their position, especially over a number of consecutive seasons, should at least consider the potential of reaching football immortality with enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Are there any offensive linemen in the Hall with nary a Pro Bowl to their name? Or let’s say Schwartz finally starts to rack up those appearances over the next three years (as long as he’s signed right now)? That whole line of “three-time Pro Bowler Mitch Schwartz” just doesn’t move the meter all that much.
Here’s what is true about Mitchell Schwartz. He holds the NFL’s ironman mark with most consecutive snaps played and has never missed a single game in his seven-year career. He learned from the best in Joe Thomas while with the Cleveland Browns and translated that into his own game on the other side, an immovable right tackle who consistently gets the best of the NFL’s elite pass rushers—names like Von Miller, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Khalil Mack, Bradley Chubb. He’s also an accessible player who is wonderful with fans and teammates alike.
He turned heads his rookie season by making the NFL’s All-Rookie Team in 2012. Since then, he has steadily improved his game as analysts and experts have grown to appreciate him more and more over time. Now in his seventh year, he’s been acknowledged as the overall best in the game, a man who does his best against the best.
Unfortunately, the world of football has done a poor job of marketing Schwartz to the masses. Some of this lies in his position and the fact that right tackles just earn less respect (and much less money) than left tackles (although the gap is closing). If Schwartz was an LT, he’s likely a household name and a multi-year Pro Bowler. He’s also played on some poor Cleveland teams that kept his profile bound to the Midwest. It’s hard to stand out as a right tackle in a Great Lakes market when the attention in the North is being swallowed by the Steelers and Ravens on an annual basis.
But Chiefs fans have learned well that Schwartz is the anchor to the team’s line, even if it’s on the right side instead of the left. There’s good reason why the Chiefs decided to tack on an extra season to his contract with multiple years left this offseason. While football is always a game of risk, Schwartz is among the safest overall bets in the game.
Here’s hoping this is the year that Schwartz goes mainstream. Here’s hoping the NFL pushes Schwartz as a tackle to know for its casual fans. Here’s hoping the Chiefs push some marketing dollars behind the player and personality. And here’s hoping the Pro Bowl calls with a massive apology as well as an invitation.