- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- If you missed our late-night Twitter Q&A last night, that's a shame. We had plenty of fun. Though that always costs me followers for some reason. I guess people don't like having their timeline clogged up with an hour's worth of our back-and-forth. Their loss, I say.
Anywho, the question (actually the answer) that got the most reaction was the one about which team's pass rush was better: the New York Giants' or the Philadelphia Eagles'. I answered, "Giants. They have the rings," and a lot of Eagles fans took that poorly. (Shocker!) Their basic point was that the rings aren't the only thing that determine such things, and that is correct. I have written many times here on what I believe is the modern over-emphasis on championships as the basis for evaluating players, teams and coaches, and so I can see how it might have looked as though I violated my own principles. But Twitter and its 140-character limit don't allow for full explanations, so here is mine:
I think it's a very close call between the Eagles and the Giants as to which team's pass rush is better. The Eagles had 50 sacks last season to tie for the league lead. The Giants were right behind them with 48. The Giants have Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul as defensive end starters, the Eagles have Trent Cole and Jason Babin. All four are outstanding. You could argue that the Giants have the edge at end because they have Osi Umenyiora on the bench, and he's considerably better than still-unproven Brandon Graham of the Eagles. But you could also argue that the Eagles have guys at defensive tackle (Cullen Jenkins, maybe rookie Fletcher Cox) who contribute to the pass rush more than the run-stuffing defensive tackles in the Giants' scheme.
The counter to that is that the Giants will move Tuck to defensive tackle in some passing situations and pull Mathias Kiwanuka up from linebacker to rush the passer, putting all four of their dynamic ends into the game at the same time. But the Eagles can play Jenkins all over the line, and probably have more depth on the inside.
Round and round you can go with this, because it's very close. But when I write that the Giants are better because they have the rings, that's more than just a flippant tiebreaker. The Giants have a team full of proven Super Bowl champions. The Eagles have a team that played extremely well in stretches last season, but also played very poorly in critical late-game situations. You can look at the names on paper and decide which you like better, but if you don't allow recent past performance to factor into your analysis of what kinds of players these guys are, you're being foolish. The Eagles' pass rush might outperform the Giants' pass rush in 2012. But the guys the Giants use have proven more than have the guys the Eagles use, and that's why I'm picking them in this comparison.