New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan was asked a question about Cincinnati Bengals rising linebacker Vontaze Burficit, and whether or not his tackle numbers this year are misleading. For the uninitiated, Burficit leads the league with 74 total tackles and has been a huge force against the run all season long.
Here was Ryan’s response, “Well sometimes it’s misleading, because I remember they voted a guy to the Pro Bowl because he led the league in tackles, but hell, they were out there 500 more plays than every other defense. They were just an average defense. That’s not the case in Cincinnati. I think they’re playing well. He is a good inside linebacker. I think he’s got instincts, he’s a good hitter. He’s a throwback middle linebacker type guy.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Were those first couple of sentences a shot at Jerod Mayo?
In the 2010 season, Jerod Mayo received plenty of criticism from analysts and fans who criticized “stupid fans” for voting Mayo into the Pro Bowl. He recorded a league-high 175 tackles, but Mayo was criticized for racking up “garbage” tackles and taking advantage of a mediocre defense around him (basically the argument Ryan brings up as well). He had a staggering amount of tackles, but many believed that Mayo had become grossly overrated because of the misleading stats.
Mayo, who is currently on the injured reserve, was also named to the Pro Bowl last season, but he actually deserved last year’s Pro Bowl birth. Cutting intangibles out of the equation, Mayo finally showed that he is a truly elite linebacker in this league, and I think he shed the overrated tag with that performance. He looked excellent stuffing the run downhill, continued to show good range, was able to put together some successful delayed blitzes, and he was the New England Patriots only plus player in coverage.
Was Ryan referencing a key player on a rival team, or was he talking about another player entirely? To me, it seems like he is talking about the 2010 Patriots defense (they were on the field for 1,020 plays), but it could very well be another player he is referencing. The criticism of Mayo’s 2010 season is fair, but I’m wondering if there are other players who have had similar cases.
Burficit, by the way, seems perfectly legit, and I love the way Ryan described him.