I have an ironclad rule against commenting on other people's "lists." I'm not going to get worked up over some idiot's decision to rank the best defenses of all time without mentioning the old Gang Green or even naming Eli Manning the first player in the division you'd draft if starting a new team. That's not worth my time.
But when ESPN puts its full institutional weight behind something ... and when you know that same weight is going to be brought to bear further down the line when more important discussions about things like Hall of Fame credentials are going to come up ... and when that stupid network once again proves it doesn't know it's head from its a-- when it comes to what actually happens on the field.
Well then we have problems.
And here we are, with ESPN's all-decade team (which they're helpfully naming before the decade has ended -- you can't parody these guys):
Safeties Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed: Lynch (seven) and Dawkins (six) have more Pro Bowls this decade, but the Steelers' Polamalu and Ravens' Reed stood apart in overall athletic ability and their flair for the spectacular play.
"I love watching [Polamalu] play," Cowboys Ring of Honor member Cliff Harris told Mosley. "They give him a lot of freedom and he's able to make a lot of plays. I think I'd love playing in that defense -- even though it's the Steelers. I'm biased, but I still think it's one of the most important positions on the field. And no one can match Reed and Polamalu right now."
Reed's production -- 43 interceptions in seven NFL seasons, compared to 34 picks in 13 seasons for Dawkins -- separates him from all challengers.
I think we can all agree Ed Reed needs to be on that team. No objection here or anywhere else.
But Troy Polamalu? Because an ex-Cowboy says he loves watching him play? And no one's better "right now"? Never mind that we're talking about the all-decade team.
Give me a friggin' break.
To his credit, Matt Mosley shares this concern:
But for now, let's focus our attention on the defense. I was responsible for talking to numerous coaches, players and personnel types to come up with the best safeties of the decade. I made a strong argument for Brian Dawkins during those discussions, but it became very clear that Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu would prevail...
The only name that really bothers me not being on the list is Dawkins. I think he's a potential Hall of Fame player, although the voters haven't been kind to safeties. But you could also make a very strong argument for John Lynch. At the start of the decade, he was the measuring stick for drafting safeties.
So we'll carve Matt out of the general blanket ESPN condemnation and just go on ripping the rest of the Bristol Bunch.
Now here's a crazy idea. Rather than just making stuff up based on what people spout off, why don't we look at some numbers? I know, that's nuts, right?
Well let's try it anyway. Here are the numbers for the two guys starting with the 2000 season:
That is, as they say, not even friggin close. Dawk destroys Polamalu across the board, in literally every single category.
Now wait, you're saying, let's be fair. Polamalu only came into the league in 2003. Surely it's not fair to compare his numbers to Dawkins', when Dawk played three more seasons?
Answer: It's the all-decade team, right? Not the 2003-2009 team? So shouldn't all stats through the decade count? After all, we're not doing anything crazy like including Dawk's ridiculous numbers from the 90s, just the ones from this decade.
But OK. Let's compare apples to apples. Here are their numbers starting with the 2003 season:
Much closer. Polamalu gets the edge in assists and INTs, Dawk has sacks, forced fumbles and passes defensed.
But check out that column at the left. Polamalu actually played an extra half season during this timeframe, since 2003 was the year when Dawk had the bad injury that limited him to only seven games.
Just out of curiosity, what happens when you compare the two players on a per-game basis during that time period:
Polamalu has the edge in assists and (just barely) in INTs. They tie tackles and Dawk wins solos, sacks, forced fumbles (hugely) and passes defensed. And this despite Dawk entering the twilight of his career and Polamalu being in his prime.
Beyond the stats, Polamalu has five Pro Bowls and three All-Pro selections (two first team). Just during the last decade, Dawk has six Pro Bowls and four first-team All-Pros.
Look, Troy Polamalu is a great player. He really is. I'm not trying to take anything away from him.
But Dawk has the acccolades, he's got the numbers and he's even got the edge if you just compare them game-to-game for as long as Polamalu's been in the league. (Which, again, is spurious, since we're talking about the all-decade team.)
You know what the problem is? Polamalu has those two rings. And they're just so damn shiny, there are a lot of people who can't see past them. And now Dawk's stuck on a team that doesn't look like it's headed anywhere near the Super Bowl.
This is just the beginning.