Roy Miller Vs. “The Stat Society”March 4th, 2013
During the NFL Combine, Joe had the honor to talk to one of the greatest general managers the NFL has ever known, Bill Polian. For those unaware, Polian built the Buffalo Bills juggernaut that went to four straight Super Bowls, was the original general manager of the Carolina Panthers when they made an NFC Championship in their second year, and led the Indianapolis Colts, who were a perennial playoff team under his lording. Polian now works for ESPN and SiriusXM NFL Radio as an NFL analyst. Polian explained to Joe, among other things, why the calculator crowd will never appreciate Bucs defensive tackle Roy Miller.
JoeBucsFan: Recently, Tim Ryan of SiriusXM NFL Radio told me that the problem with the Bucs’ pass rush wasn’t so much the defensive line, but the abject inability of the cornerbacks to cover anyone. He had said in the Bucs games he studied, quarterbacks often got rid of the ball in 2.5 seconds and that unless a defensive lineman was completely unblocked, they had no chance to get heat on the quarterback because receivers were virtually uncovered from the moment the ball was snapped. Is there any validity to that?
Bill Polian: Sure, it is the old chicken-and-the-egg. The best pass defense is a good pass rush and the injuries that they had, which were significant, the pass rush wasn’t there. Yeah. The whole premise of a 4-3 defense essentially is that those four guys in passing situations can get to the passer. Hurry him, move him off his spot – you don’t have to sack him. You just have to hurry him, move him off his spot and rush the throw. Make the throw not 100 percent on target and you get yourself a win for the defense. If you can’t rush the passer, and by the way the hardest people to find in this game are pass rushers …
Joe: Really, more so than corners?
Polian: … More so than corners — way more so than corners, yes. God only makes so many of them. So, if you don’t have those people because of injuries, which was the case, you are at a very serious disadvantage.
Joe: Now Roy Miller, the Bucs tackle. If you talk to Bucs coaches and front office people, they just rave about him. Fans don’t see it that way. They point to his lack of stats and say, “Oh, he doesn’t have enough stats, he doesn’t have enough tackles.” What is your impression? The Bucs say he is doing exactly what they ask him to do which is keep heat off of Gerald McCoy, who had a fantastic season.
Polian: Yes he did, and you are exactly right. The whole thing works in concert. The whole problem with the rising of the stat society is that people think they can measure everything. But this game is the most coordinated and complicated game in the world. Unless you have the ability to go back to the All-22 and run it back continually and understand what you are looking at — which the vast majority of stat people do not — the stats mean absolutely nothing. The coaches are right. They know what they are asking a player to do. The only question in their minds is, “Is he doing it correctly?” Greg Schiano is among the hardest graders in all of sports, in any sport. He is very demanding, very precise. I am certain that they grade that way and I am also certain that explanation that you gave [about Miller] is correct. It is a coordinated effort among the four rushers. It is a coordinated effort among the four or seven guys up front when they are playing the run. You have to fill the right gaps; you have to read the right keys. You have to do the right things. That doesn’t show up in stats.
Joe: Lavonte David may have been the steal of the draft, when the Bucs traded up from the third round to get him. Peter King says he is the new-age linebacker in that he can do just about anything. He can rush; he can clearly tackle so well, he is sideline-to-sideline. Talk about that; is he sort of revolutionizing football at outside linebacker?
Polian: He is if you play the kind of defense which the Bucs play, which is an attacking defense. If you play a two-gap, static defense the way the Niners play – static is the wrong word. If you play a physical stop-the-offense-on-the-line-of-scrimmage and then run to the ball, then no. [David’s] deal is running to the ball, attacking, movement in space. The Bucs linebackers play similarly to the way we played here, which is flow to the football. Lavonte David is perfect for that. I’m not so sure he could transfer to a power 34 like the Niners play.