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Pro Football Focus is a subscriber based service that evaluates NFL players at every position. It is sanctioned by the NFL and partly owned by former NFL player and current color broadcaster, Chris Collingsworth.
Many people in the NFL don’t like the reports that Pro Football Focus make about players online. Vikings’ coach Mike Zimmer is one of them.
In 2014, Zimmer came to the podium of a press conference after just becoming the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
“The last thing that I want to talk about before I let you guys go is this Pro Football Focus thing,” Zimmer said. “I know everybody wants to get the scoop on this, but quite honestly there’s not really anybody–
–I look at the grades and I can’t tell you what a 0.7 is or anything like that, but I know that the people that are grading our games and our defenses and our offenses, they don’t know if the tackle gets beat inside, if we weren’t sliding out to the nickel or who our guys are supposed to cover.”
Zimmer went on, almost pleading with reports about his point.
“I guarantee they (PFF) don’t know who is in our blitz package and what they are supposed to do. I would just ask everybody to take that with a grain of salt, including our fans. We as coaches get paid a whole bunch of money to do the jobs that we do, evaluate the players that we evaluate and grade them how we grade them and not based on someone else.”
Bring Along Your Sense Of Humor
Five seasons later, after Zimmer has had to suffer PFF and it’s grade system through numerous questions by reporters, he’s shown that he at least now has a sense of humor about the whole thing.
Here’s how an exchange between Coach Zimmer and a local reporter went in regard to Vikings’ linebacker Eric Kendricks on Monday:
Reporter: “You’re not a Pro Football Focus fan…”
Zimmer: “No I’m not.”
Reporter: “They have him (Kendricks) ranked as the No. 2 linebacker in all the NFL.”
Zimmer: “Yes! I was excited about that.”
If Mike Zimmer can have fun with what he considers illegitimate evaluation of the player on his team, then we all can. I might just advise that folks don’t spend a bundle on the service.
Why? Well, let’s just take new Vikings’ guard Josh Kline.
The Guard And Linebacker Positions
The Vikings acquired a right guard this season that Pro Football Focus has graded as a distinctly average Joe during his career. But when Kline went from New England to Tennessee in 2016, the Titans rushed for 702 more yards in a single season.
For the Vikings, Kline has shown stamina, work ethic and leadership at his position, which is only a footnote to his contribution to one of the NFL’s best run offenses of 2019.
In the case of Kendricks, the 5th-year linebacker has been all over the board when it comes to Pro Football Focus’ rating system. In 2017, he was up, 2018 he was down, and now in 2019, he’s the NFL’s second banana.
What PFF tries to do is apply a ‘Sabermetrics’ type algorithm to professional football. But it doesn’t work. Football players are asked to do too much, and they don’t always “get on base”when it comes to numbers.
Mike Zimmer knows that. Eric Kendricks knows that. It’s probably time that NFL fans and reporters know it also.