It’s so good to have you back, football. I mean, you may not be real yet or meaningful, but you’re here, and dammit, I was really excited last night to watch Charlie Whitehurst run the two-minute offense. Really excited.
Something happens to our minds during this wonderful time of the year. Everything is equal, so anything is possible. This applies to both our thinking regarding reality and fantasy football. In reality, there are people in offices this morning and around the Internet who are jacked because their team of choice won a preseason game last night, as though that means anything at all. They are few in number, but they exist, and they’re hilarious.
I could pretend to be surprised by the release of Willis McGahee, but I like you guys too much to lie like a filthy person. Although McGahee didn’t believe it because a running back must never concede that his death bed awaits until death itself beckons, this move has been nearly a formality since the moment Denver spent a second-round pick on Montee Ball.
So yeah, it’s officially happened now. Which means omg MONTEE BALL MONTEE BALL MONTEE BALL MONTEE BALL.
Buddy Nix stepped down as the Buffalo Bills general manager earlier this afternoon in a move that was both expected, yet also a little odd.
When Russ Brandon took over as team president back in January, a change of direction seemed inevitable. Yet a wait followed, a concept Bills fans have grown familiar with (13 seasons without a playoff appearance will have that effect). Then just three weeks ago Brandon said Nix is the team’s general manager, and he will be for a long time. Just after that definitive statement the keys to a crucial draft in which the franchise selected its future quarterback remained in Nix’s hands. He went with E.J. Manuel in the first round, faith leaping that was, at best, optimistic thinking during a year when quarterback talent descended down the draft rungs quickly, led by Geno Smith’s fall.
Now Nix is gone, evidently on his own accord, and someone else will be left to deal with the crumbling mess should Manuel fail.
In my mind I searched for better words to describe this Super Bowl (indeed, “awesome” and “what the hell?” are words that also would have sufficed), but that one feels the most appropriate. It was weird.
Why? Well, let’s review the oddities we witnessed tonight along the way as the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, their second championship in franchise history.
In an awards night filled with obvious decisions (J.J. Watt as the DPOY, and Bruce Arians as the coach of the year…also, yawn). This was another one.
Plenty of fine folks will disagree with Adrian Peterson being named this year’s most valuable player after he also won the offensive player of the year award earlier in the evening, and those people mostly live in Denver. I’ll explain why Peterson was the only logical decision with more words below.
Which shouldn’t be surprising, since he sacked pretty much all of the quarterbacks.
Watt was named the defensive player of the year in what was the most unanimous decision of the evening so far in New Orleans. He received 49 of the 50 votes (Von Miller received the only non-Watt vote).
The Texans defensive end is the scariest dude in the NFL. This is not debatable. It’s science.
He finished with 20.5 sacks, coming just 2.5 short of Michael Strahan’s single-season record, with Watt’s run of QB bruising featuring two three-sack games. But what truly set Watt apart from the likes of Miller and Aldon Smith who were just behind him in the sack standings was his versatility.
Watt finished with 16 passes defensed as he quickly gained a reputation for blocking pass attempts and elevating when he couldn’t get to the quarterback. Meanwhile, Miller and Smith combined for only three passes defensed.
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.