LA Rams: Evolution of NT role and 2021 impact to Rams defense

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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LA Rams News
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Oh the days of yesteryear, those shadows of memories where the NFL invented more than just new formations, but actually created new football positions. The LA Rams have a long and storied history, but there are other ways to roll back the calendar and revisit the lessons of long ago and translate yesterday into today’s wisdom.  One example is the history of the nose tackle and how that position’s introduction and eventual transformation affect the team in 2021.

You know the nose tackle position, right?  Well, there is a lot to learn about how the nose tackle came to be, and how that has evolved over time.  To understand the entire story, we have to step back in time to Wade Phillips, his father Bum Phillips, and then his mentor, Hank Stram. So who was the guy who put nose tackle on the NFL map?  None other than Curley Culp.

In the late 1960s, just after the NFL and AFL combined and created the Super Bowl to determine the NFL Champion, the Denver Broncos draft Curley Culp to become an NFL guard with their second-round pick of the draft. The only problem? He wanted to play defense. So Hank Stram, then head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, traded a third-round pick to the Broncos for Culp and pledged to play him on the defensive side of the ball. The Chiefs finished the season at 12-2 but lost to the then Oakland Raiders in the Divisional round. That season, Culp played defensive tackle.

Culp did not become the nose tackle for the entire 1969 season until the 11-3 Chiefs advanced to Super Bowl IV to face the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had a dominating running attack, but like many NFL teams at that time, played an undersized center named Mick Tingelhoff, who was swift enough to block downfield very effectively against linebackers because he stood 6-foot-2 and weighed a svelte 237 pounds.  Against the Chiefs, he would face 6-foot-2 265-pound nose tackle, Curley Culp, the entire game. Culp won the battle, the Vikings were held to 67 yards rushing, and the Chiefs won the game.

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The nose tackle position was born. And the NFL would never be the same.