Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Apr 2007

Will Shields Retires

Will Shields has left the game of football after fourteen seasons with Kansas City. While Tiki Barber's retirement received a lot of fanfare, is the retirement of arguably the best interior lineman of his generation a bigger story? Discuss.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 15 Apr 2007

30 comments, Last at 17 Apr 2007, 12:13pm by bengt


by Sergio (not verified) :: Sun, 04/15/2007 - 9:42pm

I just hope he doesn't get the Bob Kuechenberg treatment.

Great blocker, indeed.

by D (not verified) :: Sun, 04/15/2007 - 9:59pm

A great player on the field and an even better person off it, he'll be missed.

by Sean (not verified) :: Sun, 04/15/2007 - 10:32pm

Unquestionably, this is a huge move. Being a strong believer of teams building from the lines out, Shields retirement is more important to KC than Tiki's was to NY.

One thing: Is this grounds for LJ to request a trade?

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sun, 04/15/2007 - 10:33pm

Do you hear that? That's the sound of the Chiefs offense collapsing.

by SJM (not verified) :: Sun, 04/15/2007 - 10:39pm

Do NOT draft Larry Johnson next year. (Just in case anyone was still considering it.) Please, please let some other sucker take him in the top 3. Just say no.

by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Sun, 04/15/2007 - 10:52pm

"arguably the best interior lineman of his generation"- Larry Allen???

I suppose you did say arguably the best.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sun, 04/15/2007 - 11:21pm

Kansas City was either first in offensive DVOA, or second to the Colts, every year from 2002-2005. I think their offensive success stemmed primarily from nine players: Trent Green, Priest Holmes, Eddie Kennison, Tony Gonzalez, Willie Roaf, Brian Waters, Casey Weigmann, Will Shields, and later on, Larry Johnson.

How many of those nine players do you think are still able to play the way they did in their prime?

I count one.

by MRH (not verified) :: Sun, 04/15/2007 - 11:22pm

Let's see: 11 Pro Bowls each. Shields hasn't missed a game - even a start - since 1993. Allen has missed 21. Allen's teams won 104 games, Shields' won 120 (in the same time span plus 11 in '93 before Allen entered the league). Allen won a Super Bowl, but of course his team had won 2 in a row just before he joined them. Allen's teams have rushed for 25,062 yards, 4.0 ypc. Shields from 1994 on: 26,464, 4.2. Allen blocked for sure HoF back Emmitt Smith; Shields blocked for a number of good backs including HoFer Marcus Allen at the end of his career but his backs gained more yards on fewer attempts. I see almost nothing to indicate that Allen was better than Shields and some things that say Shields was better.

Larry Allen will go to the HoF, and I'd vote for him. But Will Shields should get there first.

by Just Saying (not verified) :: Sun, 04/15/2007 - 11:39pm

#8...you can bring up stats all you want, but they can't possibly do anything to counter the unmatched dominance Larry Allen brought to the field.

by Sebastian (not verified) :: Sun, 04/15/2007 - 11:45pm


I don't think comparing ypc or even raw yards adds anything to the debate really. I'm too young to remember the start of Allen's career and since neither the Cowboys nor the teams are one of the teams I regularly watch, I don't think I could fairly evaluate them, apart from the fact that that's never the easiest thing to do for an OL. I'll stick with "both great".

by NF (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 12:48am

8,10: If there is anything shown by Adjusted Line Yards about run-blocking, its that runs up the middle are statistically equivalent to runs behind either guard. That implies that all interior rushing is a function directly of the performance of both guards and the center, so even if you were just looking at interior rushing yards and yards per carry, you would still need to quantify how good their teammates on the interior of the line were.

Also, how were Shields and Allen at pass-blocking? Even though most sacks are by DEs and DTs are most notable for run-stuffing, some DTs are known specifically for their pass rushing ability, and DTs have a role in pressuring the QB by collapsing the pocket.

by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 2:25am

One could argue decently well that KC had the better backs. Holmes in his prime and Johnson in his prime are arguably ebtter than Smith in his prime, even if Smith ends up the only 1 of the 3 in the HOF

by Screaming Headless Torso (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 5:42am

#11 Allen was pretty dodgy at pass blocking last year, but in his prime, he played a year at LT and made the Pro-Bowl, so that's probably a more accurate reflection of how good he was. As for Shields, I've honestly never seen him being beaten for a sack, but I haven't been watching him all that carefully.

I can't really split the two of them, the bottom line is that I would put them both in the Hall in their first year. Given that Randall McDaniel, among others, is still waiting for his call, I guess that just isn't likely to happen though. If there's one thing that gets me about the Hall (and there's more than one), it's the fact that they just don't even care about the skill position bias.

by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 9:09am

8: Wasn't Willie Roaf also on some of those lines, he was a bit good too. I don't think that approach holds water.

13: I watched every niners game last year and I can't remember that many sacks on Allen. I'm not saying there weren't any but I can't recall it being a repeating theme.

They're different players, Allen was/is a devastating mauler, if he gets his hands on a defender, they're gone. Will Shields was more agile and might have been the best pulling guard I've ever seen (only Guy McIntyre compares for me). I have no problem agreeing with Sebastian on this one, both great.

by Screaming Headless Torso (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 9:14am

#14: A lot of other Niners fans say that to me, and I know why, because I didn't feel that he was giving up too much when I watched them first time. But when I broke down the line play from the DVDs, he actually gave up way more sacks than any of the other interior guys. I'm not complaining though, because he still kills guys in the running game, so it's a fair trade.

At his peak though, he had no problems as a pass blocker.

by MRH (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 10:10am

BTW, PFR says Shields had 11 Pro Bowls but the KC Star says 12. Not sure which is correct.

From watching almost every Chiefs game this year, I'd agree that Shields made this last Pro Bowl on reputation, not performance.

by Dean (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 10:22am

Larry Allen was good, but rode the John Madden Hype Machine.

Will Shields was MUCH better. If he'd played for a marquee franchise, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 10:55am

Wow wow wow, what about Brian Waters? Nobody talks about the guy. He's probably the most underrated lineman in the entire league.

If Brian Waters were a free agent last year, he probably would have got Hutchinson treatment.

by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 10:57am

no way Shields was better than Larry Allen

by pharmboyrick (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 11:17am

To #8 and #9
Shields was a dominating force. I hope Priest Holmes shared some of his bonus money with him. As far as the top interior lineman of his generation, how about Tom Nalen?

Since SHanahan joined the Broncos in 1995, Denver has the number one running offense in the NFL, and this has been accomplished with several RBs of varying talent levels. He has been the only constant in all of Denver's running success ('95 to present). For years Denver RB's talent has been dismissed with quotes like, "anybody can run behind that line."

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 11:22am

PFT claims that this is about money, and that Shields would be happy to play on if KC were to give him a pay rise or trade him to someone who would. This may very well be a total crock, of course, but it's just possible we'll see Shields on an NFL field again.

As to the Barber comparison, I think the reason that this is less big news is that while Shields had a better career overall, he was clearly well into his decline phase at this point, whereas Barber was still one of the very best backs in the league last year - perhaps as high as third behind Tomlinson and LJ. The Chiefs effectively lost Shields between '04 and '05, when he went from being an elite guard to a fairly average, replaceable one.

by pharmboyrick (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 11:27am

Larry Allen was good, but Madden added a lot to his status. How successful was Dallas' running game after Emmitt retired?

WIll ALlen and co. turned a cast off RB, (Priest Holmes), into one of the most effective backs in the league. As a Bronco fan, I have seen the CHiefs run over Denver with several RBs, it seemed to me that Dallas' running game did not fare so well after Emmitt retired.

by pharmboyrick (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 11:32am

Dead on about the skill position bias and the HOF.

I would also have to add there is too much of a bias towards championship teams and major market teams. Given that, I would say that Allen has a much better chance to make it based on playing for AMericas team and winning a SB.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 12:10pm

Unless somebody has really taken the time to break down the grades for a couple of outstanding linemen, with a pretty large sample size of games, it gets to be really hard to make an accurate judgement as to how much they are seperated, performance-wise. Evaluating offensive line play is very time consuming, compared to a lot of other positions, which is why Hall of Fame electors do such a spotty job of it.

Shields and Allen were both great, great, players, and I just haven't seen enough of them, especially Shields (being more of an NFC fan), in detailed enough fashion, for me to definitively say one was better than the other, even if we got a very precise definition of "better".

by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 12:29pm

The hall will be full of RB's, QB's, WR's, sack artists and the truly outstanding others.

We'll have pretty good or pretty consistant running backs, but we'll lack dominant lineman and other less quantifyable players.

by The Other Vlad (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 1:36pm

Depending on how you define "generation", don't forget about Dermontti Dawson. He didn't retire until 2000, after all.

by michael (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 2:07pm

As far as Allen vs. Shields, let me have them both and you can stick whatever running back you want on my team and I'll still beat you.

by cjfarls (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 2:55pm

As a Denver fan, all I can say is the Chiefs O-line has been a nightmare of mine for years (Roaf, Shields & Waters!) for years... thank god they get old like everyone else.

There is no right answer so its pointless arguing.... both Shields & Allen were monsters in their prime. #27 is right - gimme both and I'll rack up 1500 yards on you personally. Even I can hit a 10 yard wide hole...

by Jason Mulgrew aka The Mul-Dawg aka Lord J Rocka (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 6:26pm

re: 19

Yes way Shields was better than Larry Allen. The Dawg says so and that's the bottom line.

by bengt (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 12:13pm

Apparently Dr. Z is not high on the KC OL recently:"[Trent] Green was a 36-year-old QB playing behind a line with perhaps the worst combination of pass-blocking tackles in the league ... the guy on the left side is someone I classify as a WGSK lineman. Will Get Somebody Killed. Maybe Green has something left, maybe not, but you'll never find out in a setup like K.C.'s."