Middle linebacker Patrick Willis of the San Francisco 49ers was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2007.
If you trust his statistics, he should have been the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year as well. Maybe even the NFL Defensive Player of the Decade.
Willis was credited with 226 tackles by the 49ers – a staggering 42 more than the league’s next most prolific tackler, Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens.
Willis collected 117 more tackles than the starting NFC middle linebacker in the Pro Bowl (Lofa Tatupu, Seattle Seahawks) and 99 more than the AFC starter (Demeco Ryans, Houston Texans). Was Willis that much more active, that much more proficient than any other defensive player in the NFL?
But I don’t trust the statistics – not tackle stats, anyway.
Each NFL team employs a stat crew for its home games. That crew’s final statistics are deemed official by the league office: yardage for rushing, passing, receiving and various kick returns plus field goal and punting distances, sacks, interceptions, touchdowns …