San Francisco’s starting left outside linebacker operates in near complete obscurity within the shadow of well-publicized greatness.
Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman form the most dominant inside linebacker duo in the NFL. Aldon Smith is one of the league’s reigning sack masters, and may just produce a record breaking performance sooner rather than later.
Then there’s Brooks—not the affable, bird-in-his-pocket old man from Shawshank Redemption—but the 49er who contributes so much on the gridiron, yet asks for so little in return.
No. 55 has averaged over six sacks, three-plus pass breakups and considerably more significant tackles per season since donning a Red and Gold jersey in 2009. And he took it in stride—posting a career-year in 2011, humbly accepting a much-deserved six-year deal shortly thereafter and comporting himself with nothing but total blue-collar grace following new career-highs in 2012, even when signing for just $8.25 million guaranteed.
Let’s be honest folks—such salary figures just aren’t commensurate with Brooks’ on-field achievements. The proof is in the statistical pudding.
The advanced metric geniuses at Pro Football Focus qualified Brooks’ 2012 season as the fifth-best among 3-4 outside linebackers. Only three players compiled higher scores when dropping back in coverage and defending the run, and just four backers registered more total quarterback sacks, hits and hurries than Brooks’ 50.
Few operate as proficiently in all facets of the game in such a complete-package fashion. Brooks’ pivotal interception return for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints without himself allowing one in coverage all year merely serves as icing on the cake.
Recent acquittals in the realm of jurisprudence—however positive per the reports by Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee—have no place here. Brooks character, influence and production as a 49er both in the locker room and on the field are top notch.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio does have talented backups with which to utilize. But if the need ever arises, the hole that Brooks leaves cannot be overstated.
Neither seven-year veteran Parys Haralson, nor 2013 draft selectee Corey Lemonier, nor any of San Francisco’s other outside backers are as effective as Brooks in every duty required by the position.
The Willis’, Bowman’s and Aldon Smith’s of the world certainly deserve full credit for their rightfully attained status.
But Brooks doesn’t? He belongs in the same sentence as those three and should not be left by the linebacker wayside.
Perhaps with a third consecutive career-year, he’ll realize his proper standing in the public eye.
Here’s to a third time being the proverbial charm.
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