Tuesday, June 7, 2011

NFL Education: Troy Polamalu is Overrated [Mondays with Gus]

I've decided that if we can't have pro football talk in the media because of a lockout by the owners, I'm going to generate some football talk of my own. I'll be damned if I'm going to let some billionaires dictate the coverage that comes on the sports news. So, here is my attempt to educate the loyal NFL fans during their time of need. While I can't teach you about everything in one article, I want to start with the man that is widely considered one of the best players in football. More than just talk about him, I want to let you all know that Troy Polamalu is completely overrated.

Let's start by looking at the raw numbers of his game play and compare it to one of the greatest safeties of all time, Ed Reed. Troy has the following averages per year: 3.375 INT's, 1.0 sacks, .5 fumbles recovered and 1 forced fumble. This is hardly the stat line of someone that is one of the best defensive players in the league. Troy has never led the NFL in any statistical defensive category. Read that last sentence again, please. As a comparison, Ed Reed sits at 6 INT's, .55 sacks, 1.11 fumbles recovered, and 1.11 forced fumbles. To simplify, he almost doubles production in interceptions, and more than doubles in forced fumbles. That means he's producing over seven turnovers a year to Troy's 4.375. Polamalu has two career touchdowns as compared to Reed's 12. The statistics show that Troy is only an average safety.

It's not just the regular season, either. Troy has struggled in the three Super Bowls he has been a part of. His Super Bowl stat lines are as follows: Against Green Bay, three tackles. Against Arizona, two assists on tackles. Against Seattle, four tackles, one assist. That sounds like the stat line of a special teams player, not one of the best defensive players in the league.

But stats aren't everything; they tell a story, but not the whole story. What gives Troy the edge over other people is that the plays he does make are more spectacular than others (In other words, good for ESPN highlight reels). People see him make a leaping one handed interception. He once made  an amazing diving interception keeping the ball from touching the ground by maybe two inches. While these plays are incredible, they don't make you an elite player. Diving for incredible interceptions one game and then being roasted for multiple touchdowns in the Super Bowl doesn't make you great. It makes you inconsistent. It goes beyond his pass coverage abilities, too.

Much has been made of his ability to leap over the center at the start of the snap. This play has been given far too much coverage. He made a good play stopping a run against the Titans last year. It didn't create a turnover, or even stop the Titans. It only made them lose a yard on a goal line play. Later in the year, he did the same thing against the Browns, only to end up face first in the ground on a designed roll out for Colt McCoy. Even on that second play, ESPN hyped it up as showing how great Troy is. I'm stunned that anyone could argue that someone is great for missing a tackle, but that's ESPN for you. Teams let him do this because, as I stated earlier, he has almost no ability to get to the quarterback. He gets his one sack a year because teams don't bother to shift blocking schemes to stop him from blitzing.

Finally, he doesn't tackle properly. He dives for offensive players head first rather than making a form tackle (in fairness, many Steelers defenders play like this because that's what they're taught. That's why the NFL has installed rules stating it will punish teams that continue this behavior). This poor tackling makes for huge hits, highlights, and missed tackles. That's why things like this happen

I'm not arguing that Troy Polamalu sucks. He doesn't. When you look at his entire body of work, you'll realize he's a good safety. Nothing more, nothing less.

-Gus Rafeedie


  1. make a bleachers.com user and post this so all can see.. these are facts