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NFL debates are best settled on the field, but until Roger Goodell manages to create a 52-game schedule, there will be the off-season. The place where rhetoric goes unchecked, and legends are made with words instead of accomplishment. Such is the continuing debate about whether Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis is the best cornerback in football. People know about the Twitter debate from a few weeks back. They now know about the pugilism on ESPN’s First Take. Strip away all the talk. Look at the facts. There really is no debate that Sherman was a better player than Revis in 2012, or that Revis and Sherman are in the same class when both are healthy.
Statistics and accolades support the notion that Revis was the best cornerback in football entering the 2012 season. He was rated as the top cover corner by ProFootballFocus in two of the previous three seasons and had been voted First-Team All-Pro in each of those years.
Revis played exactly two games last season. It is not saying much to point out that Sherman, who had more All-Pro votes than any other defensive back in the NFL in 2012, was better than Revis during that time. The concept of, “if Revis was healthy,” is irrelevant because the fact is that he was not. In fact, the better debate might be whether Casey Hayward belongs in the same class as Sherman after his stellar rookie campaign, but we will save that for another day.
The title of Best Corner in the NFL is transient. If the question was, “who is the best corner of all-time?” the tactics for answering would be far different. Revis was the best corner in the NFL. Richard Sherman now is. Should Revis return to form next season, then the real debate can begin.
Take a look at how each player performed in their last full season:
A few things should jump out. First, people have dismissed the notion that Sherman’s larger interception totals matter because the assumption is that Revis is getting fewer chances due to less balls being thrown his way. Not true. Sherman was targeted only two more times in 2012 than Revis was in 2011, and had double the interceptions. Perhaps that 2011 season was an abberation. Not true. The facts are that Revis has been targeted an average of 84.3 times per season since 2008, according to PFF. Yet, during that time, Revis has never had more than 6 interceptions in a season.
Playing corner is about more than picks. Revis allowed fewer passes to be completed and one fewer touchdown. Ultimately, Sherman had a bigger impact in coverage as opponent passer rating and PFF’s coverage rating demonstrates.
Some may be wondering how wise it is to be referencing stats from a site that already pronounced Sherman is not quite as good as Revis. Again, look at the facts provided in that article, separate from the analysis:
– Sherman finished with a +25.4 overall grade and a +26.4 in coverage in 2012
– Revis’ three-year average is +26.3 overall and +22.4 in coverage
– Opposing QB rating in 2012 for Sherman was 41.1
– Revis’ three-year average is 44.6
– INT + Passes Defensed are nearly identical between the two
The writer concludes that Revis’ masterful 2009 season separates him from Sherman. That was a season when Revis was thrown at 111 times, but managed to hold opposing quarterbacks to a 32.3 rating. Those are mind-boggling numbers. That said, it is subjective to use a season from three years ago to determine if one corner is better than another right now. The writer may very well be correct, but nowhere in that article does he imply Sherman is not in the same league as Revis. The facts simply do not support it.
There has also been plenty of talk about Revis being a player who is asked to do different things than Sherman. That may also be true, although I have not seen that quantified (i.e., percentage of snaps defending the opponents #1 receiver, etc.). If so, it works both ways. Sherman has not only intercepted more passes per game than Revis in his career, but already has more career forced fumbles and has equaled Revis’ career sack total. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, no NFL player has ever had 3+ FF, 8+ interceptions, 21+ passes defended and 1+ sacks in the same season until Sherman did it last year. Don’t care for sacks from a CB? Substitute touchdowns scored. Sherman had an interception returned for a TD and a blocked kick returned for a TD. No player, according to PFR, had ever compiled Sherman’s FF, INT, PD totals and scored a touchdown in a season until Sherman did it.
In a league where turnovers are often the difference between wins and losses, it is hard to fathom why so many are so quick to dismiss Sherman’s clear advantage in forcing them through the air or on the ground.
Many will read this article and call it Seahawks homerism from a Seahawks blogger. So be it. Everything presented here is a fact, or is an error in a statistics database somewhere. The facts are undeniable, and they say Sherman was a better player than Revis in 2012 and is certainly in the same class as Revis even when Revis is healthy. Sherman has not yet had a peak season that matches what Revis did in 2009, but then again, neither has Revis. Both are terrific talents that offenses must respect. They deserve to be mentioned in the same breath.