Prior to joining the Cowboys, Alexander spent 23 seasons coaching the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line. In 2011, Alexander published a book, Perform: A Journey for Athletes, Musicians, Coaches and Teachers, and in it, gave some insight into how he decides who can and can’t be a successful offensive lineman.
Cowboys OL coach Paul Alexander wrote in his book "Perform" about how he can rule out certain offensive lineman playing for him by the way they dispense ketchup from a bottle. pic.twitter.com/zXDGT057jm— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) May 17, 2018
The full excerpt reads:
Are you the type of person who knows why the number “57” is etched on the neck of a bottle of Heinz ketchup? I’ve asked this question at seminars for years and typically about five percent of the people in the audiences know the answer. Perhaps the “57” represents the number of ingredients in the recipe, but why the location? It’s placed at the precise spot where if one taps gently on the tipped bottle, the ketchup flows freely from the bottle. Even the new plastic squeeze bottles have a perfectly placed “57” at its optimal squeezing position. The person who figured that out was a genius.
When I see a large football player turn a bottle of ketchup upside down and pound at its heel with tremendous force yet with limited success, I immediately make the mental note:
He must either play defensive line, or if he plays offensive line, he can’t play for me.
I’m an Offensive Line Coach. I coach the big, fat guys, and I love them. Offensive linemen need to be the smartest, most cohesive group on the football field because they are responsible for the combinations of problems that eleven coordinated defenders can cause. In football, there are eleven defenders and eight gaps that they can charge. Assuming each man can choose one gap, there are 437,514 possible defensive alignments that the offensive line must deal with. Football strategy can be complicated much like an advanced level math problem. Offensive linemen and their coaches seek to solve complex problems with simple solutions.
I’ll be the first to admit I had no idea the “57” on the ketchup bottle was the secret to free flowing ketchup. That may also be because I don’t use ketchup, because it’s obvious that mustard and so, so, so many other condiments and dipping sauces are way better. GTFO, ketchup.
But it may also be because I’m too dumb to be an offensive lineman.
I don’t doubt that it takes smart people to play offensive line, just ... is a ketchup bottle really the best test? Maybe the logic is that these are large men who eat a whole lot, so they should be well-versed in efficient dining? I think I’d rather just see them draw up plays on a whiteboard, personally.
It’s possible this isn’t to be taken literally. Alexander is an experienced coach who wants smart players who find simple solutions, and the ketchup bottle is an example. But offensive line prospects who want to play for the Cowboys should probably figure out that “57” trick, just in case.