I normally don't care all that much about awards. In most cases they are debatable with many deserving candidates. This was not one of those cases. There is no room for debate. Darrelle Revis was a better player than Charles Woodson this season. It's a fact. He should have won the award.
More after the jump.
Whenever I thought of reasons Revis deserved this award, I go back to an article ESPN.com ran a little over a month ago. It had a very interesting piece of analysis.
In the first season under head coach Rex Ryan, the Jets currently rank second in the NFL in total defense. One of the core tenets of their scheme this season has Revis shadowing the opposing team's best wide receiver all over the field in man-to-man coverage, in what's become known as Revis Island. That may seem obvious, but for all the hype about "shutdown cornerbacks," the majority of teams don't deploy their best corner the way the Jets do. Most keep their corners on a preferred side of the field or otherwise adapt to their existing scheme. In recent matchups against the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers, not only has Revis switched sides of the field to match up with Randy Moss and Steve Smith, he's even lined up in the slot just to stick with them.
It's this nugget that makes me chuckle when people argue Woodson lining up all over the field is some sort of point for him over Revis. Darrelle's degree of difficulty was much more difficult, constantly going up against the top receiving threat on the other team. The Packers spent time deploying their best cover guy at linebacker and safety. The Jets had their top cover guy following the top opposing receiver all over the field. Which is the more valuable use? Which is more difficult?
Another argument I've heard for Woodson's "versatility" is he had to cover tight ends. That's just silly. Tight ends are easier to cover than receivers with the exception of Antonio Gates. That's why teams deploy linebackers and safeties on them in coverage. Aside from the Chargers, no team (even the Cowboys or the Falcons) can claim its most dangerous receiver is a tight end. They aren't as fast or athletic as wide receivers. Woodson's job was a lot easier when he had to cover tight ends.
Let's take a look at another claim, that Woodson's blitzing adds to his impact and shows he can do more than Revis. Nonsense. While it is true Revis did not blitz once all season, the reason was not an inability to be successful. It was because Darrelle's coverage was too valuable to lose by having him go after the quarterback. For what it's worth, though, let's see how much of an impact Woodson had as a blitzer. He rushed the passer 49 times. He had 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hits, and 6 pressures. That means he impacted well under 1 play per game rushing the passer. This blitzing means he wasn't in coverage 3 times per game. Kind of debunks those who say this "versatility" makes him more valuable, no?
Because Revis was always on the most dangerous weapon of an opposing offense, he was targeted more than Woodson. Quarterbacks tried to force the ball to their best player. They completed around 35% of the time going against Revis. They completed around 50% against Woodson. That's a stark difference. Revis allowed 3.5 yards after the catch. Woodson allowed 4.4.
How about those great Woodson ball skills? He had more intereceptions so that must mean he was better playing the ball. That's at least what sports writers would tell you. The numbers tell a different story. Woodson broke up just over 10% of the balls thrown at him. Revis just about doubles that figure. But hey, Randy Moss and a bunch of Packers fans I saw said Revis' coverage wasn't that great, and help he had over the top saved him.
What do Andre Johnson, Mike Sims-Walker, Steve Smith, Roddy White, Chad Johnson, Terrell Owens (twice), and Randy Moss (twice) have in common? Three things. They're all among the best receivers of the game. They all had Darrelle Revis chase them around for an entire game. None ended with over 40 yards.
There are of course some things that don't show up in numbers. One is the way Revis helped everybody else in the pass defense. His ability to play the other team's best receiver on an island allowed the Jets to roll their coverage to secondary targets. Remember how bad the Jets were at covering the tight end last year? I know adding Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard helped, but the flexibility Revis allowed the defense played a big hand. That's why the Jets had an elite pass defense.
Consider also the way Revis helped the blitz. The Jets are known for their effective pass rush. Do they have a guy like Terrell Suggs, though? There is no elite pass rusher on the roster. Given the caliber of players Revis was covering, all it took was one time for a blitz to be picked up and somebody to burn him for him to surrender a big play. The only guy who did that all year was Ted Ginn. Johnson didn't do it. Moss didn't do it. Smith didn't do it. Revis gave the blitzers extra time to get to a quarterback with his almost superhuman cover skills.
Yes, Woodson did more as a blitzer. Yes, he was very good against the run. This award isn't for the defender who does the most different things, though. It's for the best. Let's say Woodson's cover skills were worth 7 to his team, his blitzing was worth 1, and his run support was worth 4. Let's say all Darrelle did was cover but his value was 15. Revis is more valuable. Again, that's hypothetical. The values I used were random. I'm just trying to show more isn't better.
Today dvdil called this vote a travesty. David Wyatt called Darrelle the real defensive player of the year. SBNation.com called Woodson a deserving winner. My fellow bloggers agreed. David Wyatt and dvdvil are right. SBNation.com and its bloggers are wrong. So are the writers who made such a terrible vote today. They bought into the hype. Put Darrelle Revis on Green Bay's defense, and they don't get any worse. His job is easier. Put Woodson on New York's defense, and the Jets suffer.