Super Bowl-winning coach Andy Reid recently addressed an on-field development that has been occurring slowly before our eyes in recent seasons.
The development? The near extinction of the fullback position in the NFL.
Yes, there still are roster spots saved for a few fullbacks around the league. However, the heyday of strong blockers such as Moose Johnston, Mike Alstott, Robert Newhouse, Tony Richardson, John Kuhn, Larry Csonka and many other outstanding players probably is behind us. The last fullback drafted in the first round was 30 years ago when William Floyd was taken out of Florida State by the 49ers in 1994.
Coach Reid, a two-time Super Bowl winner, believes the fullback position basically has become obsolete in this era where the passing game rules. Reid has had a dedicated fullback roster spot each of his 24 years as a head coach in either Kansas City and Philadelphia. Yet, when his primary 2022 fullback left the Chiefs via free agency earlier this offseason, Reid did not look to fill the slot with an available veteran or a collegian in the most recent Draft.
“The tight ends can work into that fullback spot now,” Reid said after a recent mini-camp practice. “We’ve got a number of tight ends that we feel comfortable with so maybe you keep an extra tight end as opposed to that fullback.”
Reid earlier had said on a national podcast that “…the fullback has kind of been eased out of the game a little bit.”
In addition to the expanded emphasis on the passing game, the recent kickoff rule change on fair catches inside the 25-yard line probably will mean that fullbacks, who have been used as blockers in the kicking game, have lost their importance in that area as well.
There are, of course, exceptions to every rule and trend. The 49ers Kyle Juszcyk has been such a valuable asset as that team’s fullback that the Harvard-educated, 32-year-old has been named to the Pro Bowl each of the last seven seasons.
The one guaranteed constant in the NFL is change. We will be interested to see if Coach Reid is correct regarding the demise of fullbacks or whether outstanding players such as Kyle Juszcyk help keep that position in the game.