I know we're all mad at the travesty of Myles Garret being selected DPOY over TJ Watt. Lots of people have pointed out the stupidity of that, and I agree. What I want to talk about is the really big underlying issue that should be acknowledged right now even by Browns fans and Garret enthusiasts. Is there any reason to treat the "win rate" product PFF is selling as legitimate, much less definitive? If Garret has indeed won almost twice as often as Watt has, why hasn't he posted as many significant plays?
Again, I'm not questioning Garret's title as DPOY here. I certainly could point out that even if you regard Garrett as a definitively better pass rusher despite having dramatically fewer impact pass rushes, isn't that balanced by the fact that Watt is better in run defense and pass coverage? I'm not going to dwell on that, though. I'm questioning PFF. Even if you love Garrett and think he deserves the award, you still have to be able to talk about PFF and why their opinion should matter.
First of all, if a win falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it, is it still a win? Some nerd looks at a tape and decides Garret won that rep. That's all well and good. In theory, I'll accept that that matters. But is there no fact checking or accountability to this? In practice, why should I accept some random PFF flunky's opinion of whether or not Garret won or lost a rep? When glaring discontinuities emerge, shouldn't that cast doubt on the process? What would it take? If Kenny Pickett had been given a higher win rate from PFF this year than Lamar Jackson would he have won the league MVP? At what point do you say, "maybe this PFF stuff is kind of crap?" When a guy is awarded a 75% higher win rate, with 25% fewer sacks, doesn't that raise some red flags or concerns over how much credibility PFF has?
Second, does a win count for the same as a WIN? Simply differentiating between wins and losses conceals the fact that not all wins are created equal. A pressure is not as valuable as a sack and treating them both as simply a win is a pretty shallow level of analysis. Plays like sacks, forced fumbles, and fumble returns for touchdowns are game changing plays while beating a double team in less time than average is relatively insignificant. Treating a good rep against a double team as just as much of a win as a sack fumble on a critical down is absurd. If the "win rate" metric is to have any value, shouldn't it at the very least have the ability to weight the quality of win to give a guy who is consistently WINNING more credit than a guy who is consistently barely gaining an edge over his opponent?
The question of whether Garrett or Watt is actually better is one question, and I have strong opinions on it, just like everyone else. The question that's maybe even bigger, though, is how significant is the pass rush win rate product that PFF is selling? PFF says it's great because they're selling it. I also have a pass rush metric I would be happy to sell you and I assure you that it's the absolute last word on player evaluation. How would you evaluate if my product actually has any merit, and is PFF's product also evaluated by the same standard?
This DPOY race has given a very high profile to PFF claims that a player is winning at a vastly higher rate while actually accomplishing significantly less objective success in the form of tackling the guy with the ball. This highlights to me just how much there really has to be a discussion not so much of Garrett vs. Watt as PFF vs. No PFF. Maybe this is the time to ask if something is true just because PFF says it is, or if PFF analysts and/or their methods are too flawed or unreliable to be given very much weight. This level of discontinuity between "winning" and success at the actual objective has to beg the question.