When the NFL Network was airing its finale of its Top 100 Players of 2011, I was only interested in one item. That item wasn’t who was #1, where Ray Lewis was ranked or anything like that. I simply wanted to know who the players thought was better: Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu.
What got me interested more so than usual in this debate was ESPN’s recent series of Power Ranking articles. In their Power Rankings for the safety position, Troy Polamalu was deemed the best, and Ed Reed finished second.
I obviously would disagree.
But the order wasn’t what bothered me so much. What did was when I looked further down the page and saw the voting results, which showed that not one ESPN writer voted Ed Reed as the best safety. Troy Polamalu did just win Defensive Player of the Year, but to say he unanimously is the best safety is a bold statement!
Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu are two safeties with two different styles, and those who are undecided on this debate often bring this point up. Polamalu is viewed as the hard-hitting in the box safety, while Reed is known as the ballhawking centerfielder. However, Polamalu is often given the edge because he is known as the more versatile safety as is he can both drop into coverage and play at the line of scrimmage at a high level. What I wanted to assure myself of was that Troy Polamalu was definitely a more physical player than Reed.
So I decided to look up a few statistics just to see how Reed and Polamalu stacked up against each other. The first category is solo tackles, which I assumed Polamalu would lead. However, Ed Reed actually takes the crown in that category, with 414 to Polamalu’s 394. Ed Reed has played one more season than Polamalu and the discrepancy isn’t large, but I thought Reed would have been trumped in this category the way Polamalu is drummed up by the media as a physical force.
The next category I thought might partially demonstrate the physicality of a player was forced fumbles. I again assumed Polamalu would take the lead in this category, but I again was wrong. Ed Reed has forced 10 fumbles throughout his career, while Troy Polamalu has forced just 8. Again the discrepancy is not large and Reed has played in 21 more games than Polamalu, but it should be noted that Reed does at least have more.
These two statistics do not affirm that Ed Reed is actually the more physical player of the two, but it does say that the two are not that far apart. Reed has taken even more criticism in the last two years for being less physical because of mounting injuries, but Reed has laid some serious hits recently, specifically on Knowshon Moreno (Week 8, 2009) and Roscoe Parrish on his first series back on the field from the PUP in 2010.
To turn the argument around and try to discredit Ed Reed’s ballhawking skills in favor of Troy Polamalu would be a waste of time. Reed has 54 interceptions to Polamalu’s 27, and Reed has 1438 interception return yards to Polamalu’s mere 328, a huge disparity of more than 1,000 yards!
And let’s make no mistake about it, Ed Reed is the most dangerous player in the league when the ball is in his hands, being the only player in league history to score off of an interception, fumble, punt return and blocked punt.
Now let’s get back to the NFLN’s Top 10 players finale…
As the players were named in ascending order towards No. 1, No. 6 was called.
It was Troy Polamalu – one notch behind Ed Reed at No. 5.
I could do nothing but smile.
Finally, someone had gotten it right and realized who is best.