There is no perfect statistic. None, and there never will be a single, all-encompassing metric which allows us to ignore every other digit when we’re trying to measure a player’s overall value and worth. That’s why beyond the obvious act of simply watching a player, we need to consider multiple numbers when looking back on his season.
Some of those numbers are more flawed than others, and the tackles stat is one of them. Luke Kuechly was named the defensive rookie of the year tonight after a fine season, and he’s fully deserving of that honor. But it was given to him largely because as a rookie, the linebacker led the league in tackles with 164. That metric is problematic because a tackle can come in a variety of ways which don’t necessarily reflect well on a defender’s skill, most notably when he’s chasing the ball carrier from behind after he was beaten.
But here’s another number that’s truly impressive. Casey Heyward — who finished third in the DROY voting behind Kuechly and Bobby Wagner — allowed a passer rating of only 27.7 on balls thrown in his direction. How stupidly incredible is that? Well, opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 41.1 against Richard Sherman during the regular season.
Heyward was overlooked because the spotlight doesn’t shine nearly as brightly on his position, and in the debate surrounding post-season awards, middle linebacker will always have far more sex appeal than cornerback.