Is Sheldon Brown Underrated? A Call for New Cornerback Statistics

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Is Sheldon Brown Underrated?  A Call for New Cornerback Statistics
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

On the verge of having the most complete football team in Philadelphia Eagle history, there grew a massive influx of emotion regarding the hard line that Sheldon Brown drew with the Eagle's front office just before the draft.

Fans quickly forgot what an incredible job Sheldon Brown has done for the Eagles throughout his tenure.  Outcries from frustrated fans down played his significance. 

Regardless of the details of Sheldon's demands and disgruntlement, it is just simply not correct to say that he is not that good of a corner based on his number of interceptions and pro bowl appearances.

The fact is that most cornerbacks make pro bowls because they record interceptions.  So the two variables are highly correlated and that just isn't Sheldon Brown's bag.  He is a coverage corner and one of the best.

There is little debate as to the toughness of Sheldon Brown, having played in 112 consecutive games, the second longest streak in the NFL among cornerbacks.  He has made two of the most spectacular hits in the history of all NFL cornerbacks.  As far as run stopping corners are concerned, Brown is a top tier player.

Much of the success that Lito Sheppard and Assante Samuel enjoyed during Brown's tenure is a result of the excellent coverage applied by Sheldon Brown.  The opportunity to ball hawk only works when the other side of the field is locked down, otherwise, the ball goes to the opposite side of the field.

Sheldon Brown is more than just one of the hardest hitting, surest tackling cornerbacks in the NFL.  He is an elite coverage corner and has the measured statistics to prove it.  He has repeatedly yielded among the lowest yards per pass attempt in the NFL (http://www.blueandsilverreport.com/2008/07/14/who-is-the-best-cornerback-do-ypas-mimic-the-sat/).

New measurements and statistical gathering techniques in professional football are constantly being developed.  The NFL did not keep track of quarterback sacks until 1982. 

There are great inefficiencies in the measures of a cornerbacks effectiveness.  Several new statistical studies used in rating cornerbacks are gathered, but have not been employed by the NFL for official record keeping.

One statistical study calculated the following figures: 

Ranked 5 - Sheldon Brown: 63 attempts, 4.84 YPA, 44.44 Forced INC%, 0 TDs, 1 INT

"Among CBs with at least 40 attempts, Brown was behind only Brandon Flowers, Samari Rolle and Corey Webster with a 4.84 YPA."

http://www.bleedeaglesgreen.com/2009/03/sheldon-brown-is-just-better.html

http://ownersedge.fanball.com/article/2009/1/Top-50-Cornerback-Rankings

http://life.atlantafalcons.com/index.php?showtopic=3830776

A second similar statistical study calculated the following numbers:

Ranked No. 7 - Sheldon Brown: 58 attempts, 5.10 YPA, 43.10 Forced INC%, 0 TDs

http://boards.ign.com/football/b5105/175511705/p1/

While they remain unofficial and subject to some margin of error, these statistics put a very interesting perspective on Sheldon Brown's traditional cornerback ranking.

At the start of mini-camp Sheldon offered some final comments on his position with the Eagle's front office:

"The thing that got me to speak out was a person denying that I haven’t been brought to his attention.”

"I’m ready to do whatever. It’s not going to weigh on my mind. My job is to play football, and that’s what I do."

"To the fans, I apologize, it’s just business.”

Despite the fact that it seems ridiculous to complain about multimillion dollar salaries during one of the most troubled economic periods of recent time, the industry of professional football generates franchise profits that justify exorbitant compensation for employees. 

Sheldon signed a contract that he will have to live with, fair or not.  It was the responsibility of Sheldon and his agent to ensure that the contract would be satisfactory for the full duration prior to accepting the terms.  I will not however, dismiss his case for being undervalued and underpaid in a relative sense. 

Ultimately, Sheldon's final comments are reassuring in my opinion.  Everyone wants more money, regardless of how much money they have.  No one wants to be blown off.  Business is frustrating at times and most people have felt and expressed outrage about their employers and compensation. 

As an Eagle's fan, the apology is accepted.  As a football fan, I recognize that Sheldon is underrated when he is measured by the "Deion Sanders" standard.  Both Sheldon and the Eagles are mutually fortunate to be with each other in 2009.  With Sheldon back in camp, the fans finally win.

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