As you’ve probably heard by now, Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison was named Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Afterall, Harrison was the only defensive player to receive any votes for NFL MVP.
Despite the obvious logic of the choice of Harrison as DPOY, I have been hearing lots of negative comments about the selection. Several commentators on ESPN and NFL Network have implied that the award should have gone to Baltimore Ravens’ safety Ed Reed. Some have argued that Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware should have gotten the award. But the outcry has been far more noticeable for Reed. This is probably due to the fact that Reed has been on a tear as of late. He recorded two interceptions in the Ravens’ playoff game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. He also had two interceptions in each of the Ravens last two regular season games. That’s 6 interceptions in 3 games. Pretty impressive. But does it qualify Reed for DPOY? No.
Let’s take a closer look at Ed Reed’s numbers. Fans remember seeing Reed on SportsCenter returning interceptions for touchdowns. It seemed like he was doing it all the time, right? Wrong. Ed Reed had two “pick sixes” during the regular season. Two. Not 6. Not ten. Two. But “pick sixes” are a SportsCenter producer’s opium. They can’t get enough of it. So when one happens, they show it over, and over, and over, and over again. Pretty soon we start to think that Ed Reed has twelve of them. But he only had two.
We have to give credit where it is due. Ed Reed did lead the NFL in interceptions. He had nine. That’s pretty impressive. But six of those came during the Ravens’ last four games. That means that for the first 12 weeks of the season, Reed had only 3 interceptions. Not sounding so impressive anymore, is it? After week 12 of the season, NOBODY was mentioning Ed Reed for any type of post-season award.
If you look at the entirety of the season, you’ll notice two things. Firstly, you’ll quickly see that Ed Reed had a below average first 3/4′s of the season. Second, you’ll notice that Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu had a better season than Reed. Let’s compare their numbers. Reed had 9 interceptions, Polamalu had 7. Reed had 25 passes defensed, Polamalu had 24. Reed had two touchdowns, Troy had none (But he really had one. The NFL acknowledged that the refs blew the call when the Steelers played the Chargers, and that Polamalu’s touchdown should have counted). So overall, their stats look pretty similar. But the area where Polamalu really blows Reed out of the water is in total tackles. You know, the primary thing that defensive players get paid to do. Reed ended the season with 41 tackles, while Troy Polamalu had 73. That’s 32 more tackles than Ed Reed! For the mathematically inclined among you, that’s 78% more. Seventy eight #$%%^# percent! Which would you rather have from a defensive player, 2 extra interceptions or 78% more tackles?
SportsCenter never talks about tackles. Tackles aren’t sexy. Instead, they want “pick sixes”. They want 75 yard touchdown runs. They want helmet shattering hits. They want touchdown celebrations. They want the spectacular. They elevate style over substance. But football is won by fundamental blocking and tackling. It’s about substance, not style. And Troy Polamalu’s season had more substance than Ed Reed’s.
So, not only was Ed Reed’s season not better than James Harrison’s, it wasn’t even better than Troy Polamalu’s.
I wrote an article called The Case for James Harrison as NFL MVP. It can be found here. In that article, I outlined all of James Harrison’s accomplishments this season. Rather than rehash them here, I’ll let you go back and read that article. Suffice it to say that Harrison’s season eclipses Troy Polamalu’s, and I’ve just shown that Polamalu’s was better than Ed Reed’s. My fourth grade math teacher would write that relationship as follows:
James Harrison > Troy Polamalu > Ed Reed
So all of you Ed Reed apologists can climb back into the closet that you crawled out of. Ed Reed wasn’t even the league’s best safety this season, much less it’s best defensive player. James Harrison was, without a doubt, the best defensive player in the NFL this year. Ed Reed had 3 great games. James Harrison had an incredible season.
Congratulations Silverback. You earned the DPOY award. How about a Lombardi Trophy to complete the set?
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