The Bias Against Defensive Players

I can think of no better anecdote for why defensive players have such a hard time in the Heisman race than my experience watching the telecast of the Nebraska-Texas game.

It was clear after a few series that Ndamukong Suh was on fire.  He was making tackle after tackle behind the line of scrimmage. 

After a while, I wanted to know how many tackles he had.  Where were his stats?  They weren’t flashing them and the announcers weren’t talking about them.

Meanwhile, every quarterback pass or running back carry was followed by a stats summary on the screen.  We knew almost immediately after each play how Colt McCoy or Roy Helu was doing.

It wasn’t until his eighth tackle that Suh’s stats popped up.  And it merely showed his total tackles and sacks, neglecting his tackles for loss, which I see as an important stat.

To me, this is why outstanding talents like Suh aren’t getting their proper due.  The day when defensive stats are given the same priority as offensive stats, we’ll have a defensive Heisman winner.

About Heismanpundit

Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

20 Responses to The Bias Against Defensive Players

  1. Carbon Crush December 9, 2009 at 6:39 pm #

    HP,

    I couldn’t agree more. That being said, will you put any defensive players on your HP Fantasy Challenge next year???

    Practice what you preach!!!!

    Carbon Crush

  2. Craig December 9, 2009 at 6:44 pm #

    Now I’m an admitted Texas fan that didn’t see much Suh, but if he had 12 sacks on the season and 4.5 were against Texas, how could 7.5 sacks in his other 12 games (that’s 0.63/per) be considered dominant?!?

    Again, I only saw him play once, but it seems surprising that one game single-handedly propelled him into “greatest defender ever” status…

  3. Anonymous December 9, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    When a defensive player is on the field for 15-20 snaps a game (defensive linemen are rotated during the game) while an offensive player is on for 35-40 (quarterback/running back), the defensive player isn’t as deserving. It’s matter of reality, not bias.

  4. Anonymous December 9, 2009 at 8:32 pm #

    Exactly Craig. His stats were good for Nebraska and for a DT, but it doesn’t make him the best defensive player out there. There were a ton of guys who had better stats in other positions. The biggest travesty about the heisman is that it stopped being relevant after that Oregon QB won it in the 60s. That was when this thing became a joke and a popularity contest. To award it to Woodson over Manning back in the 90s only solidifies what I’ve stated.

    I mean look at the former QBs, they vote for 1 QB then a bunch of guys who are way down the list. Former RBs do the exact same thing. Local sportswriters (who are suppose to be non bias) have done it as well. It’s just a big joke. Until they find a better way to keep the voting fair and deserving, this will always be the case. IMO sports media, early voters and former players shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Give it to the coaches, because typically their polls are the closest.

  5. Jon December 9, 2009 at 8:50 pm #

    Good points made about defensive players. The award is traditionally awarded to Offensive players. No Running Back or QB is considered for the Outland, Butkus or Lombardi Awards. This award SHOULD be for Offensive Backs and Recievers and no one else. Mark Ingram will win it and should win it. Ingram is the best back in all of football.

  6. anonymous December 9, 2009 at 9:19 pm #

    I think Suh is very deserving for the award. Texas had SHEER DUMB LUCK that the refs gave them that 1 second back on the clock and Suh wanted to see his team win that game more than anything. He said Nebraska was ready for the game…the offence wasn’t but oh well… Suh was a BEAST all season and whoever says he isn’t…I would love to see you confront him on the field. Don’t you think it would be amazing to see a pure amazing defensive tackle win the award?

  7. Anonymous December 9, 2009 at 9:40 pm #

    I rarely do this, but I will try to “Share my wisdom” with some of the others who have posted.

    @Jon: You are right; skill positions aren’t up for those awards. Also, Lineman/Defensive players aren’t up for the Maxwell, Davey O’Brian, or Doak Walker Awards, but you didn’t mention that. Everyone has their chance at a position/side-specific award, but the Heisman doesn’t say “Best Offensive Player”–it says best player, period, and when the hell did a running back with barely a 100 yard per game average become good enough to win it his sophmore year? He’s a nice back, but not great; at least not yet.

    @Craig: It didn’t “just” happen; he was the coaches’ and media’s Defensive Player of the Year for the conference, and that was before the Championship game. The reason his stats aren’t as big as you may expect (however, I think they are pretty big–he led the top D in the conference in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks, which has NEVER happened from the DT spot) is that all the other teams saw him last year and knew good enough to get the hell away from him on every play. Texas’s arrogance contributed here–just as it should have cost them the game. By the way, doesn’t everyone always say that “big players come up big in big games”? Why would you try to label him a one-hit wonder because, after an excellent season, he had one of the best games by a DT in recent memory?

    @Anonymous: I don’t know how much football you have actually watched, but the average football game in college will have 60-90 offensive snaps, depending on factors. I won’t elaborate here, but maybe you could at least watch the game and see if you think Suh was only in the game on 1/4 of the plays (your 15 play estimate divided by 60 total). Of course, if you were actually correct, then he made the tackle from the DT spot (usually getting 2 and sometimes 3 guys to block him) on 12 out of 15 plays, which is even more impressive. The truth is that he actually left the field for only a handful (~15) plays.

    We are all fans of our respective teams, but let’s at least discuss things that are somewhat realistic. There is no 2000 yard rusher or 40 touchdown passer in a BCS conference this season. Most people have not seen him, but Suh has been the most dominant player this season.

  8. Anonymous December 9, 2009 at 10:23 pm #

    “Suh was a BEAST all season and whoever says he isn’t…I would love to see you confront him on the field.”

    You are a fucking idiot.

  9. Brad December 9, 2009 at 10:39 pm #

    First, Suh was not rotated out of the game often at all and usually played the entire game unless it was a blowout (which didn’t happen often). Second, an interior lineman who was double and sometimes triple teamed should not have as many sacks as he had this year. Third, he’s also rated on passes defended. Fourth, if you can not see that he is the best defensive player this year and one of the best ever, you do not know football. The guy is going to sweep all of the defensive awards he is up for and is a Heisman finalist. He is likely going to be a top 3 pick in the NFL draft too. I think some of you just have ass hurt that your guy is either not up for the Heisman or is being overshadowed by a DT.

  10. Dave December 9, 2009 at 10:40 pm #

    You make excellent points! The question is: What stats do we want to know during a game?

    It’s not realistic to display running totals of everyone’s stats throughout the entire game- something like 50-60 players. Maybe the commentators could give stats which are outside the norm. They do this to some extent, as you pointed out with Suh’s 8 tackles, but how else could it be done?

    Seems like there ought to be a way to give credit to the other players on the team besides the “skill” positions. Without a decent offensive line none of the candidates, besides Suh, would have decent numbers.

  11. gluelicker December 10, 2009 at 5:48 am #

    I’d settle for play-by-play announcers who actually mention who makes the tackle. That’s a lost art… it died a quiet death when Keith Jackson retired. Nowadays the blow-dried types and ex-jocks are too busy blabbing about some piece of extraneous gossip. It all started with the insufferable Dick Vitale (in college b-ball).

  12. C'Mon Son December 10, 2009 at 7:33 am #

    I will give it to Suh, he is an outstanding defensive player. I question his off the field issues, was he not arrested for suspicion of DWI, or did that magically disappear. So I guess that would say to other kids playing football that I can drink and drive, get arrested and booked into jail, and if I am good enough they will reward me with trophies. Hummm.
    Guess OJ was right, if the glove don’t fit.

  13. Anonymous December 10, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    @C’Mon Son:

    Please tell me you are not such a moron that you compare a 21 year old having a beer or two (literally) and driving home, well below the legal limit for intoxication with a guy who brutally murdered his ex-wife, her boyfriend, and now sits in jail after he kidnapped someone he did business with to intimidate the victim into giving him some items.

    It did not magically disappear; it ran the usual gamut that the same offense against any “normal” person would. He was NEVER arrested and NEVER booked into jail. I am not sure what the exact charge was, but what happened was that he was pulled over after swerving to miss an object in the road (I believe it was a cat or other small animal). He was not driving wildly. Then, he was given a breathalyzer and blew well below the legal limit (I think it was somewhere near .03 or .04–I just remember it was about half of the legal limit). He was ticketed for whatever you write tickets for in that instance, went home and got on with life.

  14. Brian December 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

    QB hurries would also be a useful stat to see on the tv. That’s almost as valuable as a sack much of the time. I think the reason this doesn’t happen is b/c it can be difficult to determine what’s an “official” qb hurry while the game is going on.

    I think it’s easier to count O stats as they are happening than it is D stats.

  15. BAMAMAN09 December 10, 2009 at 10:02 pm #

    You wanna talk about defensive players not getting their due.Look back at Derrick Thomas and Cornelius Bennent not getting what they should have won.Alot of people think those 2 were the best players of the 80s but didnt get full consideration for the Heisman

  16. BAMAMAN09 December 10, 2009 at 10:06 pm #

    You need to stop the obscene vocabulary on this site young people come on here too.I dont appreciate my kids reading tha garbage.Act like an adult you punk

  17. BAMAMAN09 December 10, 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    Mark Ingram is the best player in the country and will win the Heisman and will put an old fanshioned beatdown on Texas

  18. Anonymous December 12, 2009 at 6:00 pm #

    The ticket Suh received was for careless and inprudent driving or inattentive driving depending on what state you live in. He was well below the legal limit and paid his fine just like you or I would. Yes I am a Nebraska fan and if it was anyother star from anyother school i would correct you for them as well. The Heisman has lost popularity (not to mention) other notable college acheivments and awards because people such as yourself cant support young people in anything they do. I could very easily get on a rant about people like you being the reason the youth of this country have started to give up on their futures. Why wouldn’t they with people such as yourself bashing them for making a mistake any kid or young adult in your town or even your own family including yourself has made in the past. I hope for Suh’s sake he can move past Your criticism and bias and continue to excell in whatever life gives him. Have a great day

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