Congratulations to Aaron Donald, NFL Defensive Player of the Year 2020-21. Donald is without a doubt the first member of the Hall of Famer and, based on his overall performance, the best defensive player in the league right now. I still get chills thinking about the Bears missing him by one pick in the 2014 NFL draft (although Kyle Fuller is a nice consolation prize). And in all of this, T.J. Watt was robbed.

I’ve heard arguments that Donald is usually lined up inside, which makes it easier for him to double-team, and that traditional stats will always favor an outside linebacker like Watt, etc. If all this is true, it doesn’t change my opinion. The fact is that opponents have given Watt opportunities, and he has consistently taken advantage of them. Why should he be punished for that?

And if voters were indeed influenced by “what ifs,” one wonders why Stephon Gilmore won last year’s award based solely on statistics. The bottom line is this: when you start injecting subjectivity into the electoral process, you open a Pandora’s box that can’t be closed. And that’s exactly what just happened.

In fact, the authors who voted for Donald projected the statistics he would have published under the same conditions Watt enjoyed this season. And that doesn’t work for me. Of course, we’ve seen advanced analytics slowly become a powerful tool in sports when it comes to analyzing a player’s value, and I completely agree when it comes to determining the value of a free agent and so on. But when it comes to praise, that’s where I draw the line.

To me, this amounts to giving the Silver Slugger Award to the player with the most WAR over the player with the most RBI. The fact is that WAR depends somewhat on having runners on base, and some players keep getting thrown and don’t get the chance to score runs. I understand the logic, but it is just irresponsible to assume that a player will make more RBI if given the chance.

T.J. and his brother, legendary quarterback J.J. Watt, agreed and expressed their displeasure via Twitter. J.J. even went so far as to post a graphic (see below) showing why his brother should have won the award. I don’t understand how anyone could not vote for T.J. after seeing such compelling visual evidence. Is Donald the best player overall? Yes. Was Donald better than Watt this year? No.

Tweet from JJ Watt: “Aaron Donald is an absolutely incredible player. I love watching him play and he’s definitely on his way to the Hall of Fame. It has nothing to do with the AD personally. It’s me saying what my brother doesn’t want to. TJ has played one less game and has always been the best in the NFL in every major category.”

And that’s exactly what the final grade should reflect. Make no mistake, Donald had another dominant season, putting pressure on the NFL quarterback with a 76 and finishing second with 13.5 sacks. He also ranks fourth in sacks (2.9%) among all players with at least 200 sacks. I’m not trying to detract from his genius. I’m just pointing out that TJ was bigger this year.

As my mother taught me when I was young, “If you think you’re making a fool of yourself, you’re making a fool of yourself.” Either you had better statistics or you didn’t. That’s it, that’s all. In the words of the immortal Michael Scott, sometimes you have to be stupid.

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