Myles Garrett vs. TJ Watt: Disputing the fan conspiracy against Watt

Who is the better player between Myles Garrett and TJ Watt?
Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns / Jason Miller/GettyImages

How often do you stumble upon a Cleveland Browns article on social media and find yourself reading the comments, only to find dozens of internet trolls who never even read the article, praising T.J. Watt while discrediting Myles Garrett? You can't engage in a conversation with them without them immediately attacking your knowledge of football while assuring you they were the Junior Varsity backup kicker for their team.

Truth be told, it's a difficult comparison between Watt and Garrett because they both have elite skill sets for their specific positions. The annual DPOY award was awarded to Garrett in 2023, and naturally, Watt fans were unhappy. So much so that they believe the NFL is purposefully ensuring Watt doesn't win the award. So, let's do our due diligence, to explain to them why Myles was the more elite defender for the 2023 season.

We'll start with the most obvious difference; their positions within their schemes.

Yes, they both technically play EDGE but don't have the same assignments. Cleveland plays in a 4-3 scheme where Garrett is a defensive end, whereas Pittsburgh runs a 3-4 and Watt is an outside linebacker. In a 4-3 defense, the front four brings the pressure, while in a 3-4 defense, pressure is derived from the front seven.

This makes it difficult for opposing teams to understand where personnel is, more specifically the linebackers. Due to a 3-4 OLB assignment in either a pass rush or coverage, they may or may not, line up on the line. They may disguise themselves in coverage, and rush, or vice versa.

Conversely, a 4-3 DE contains the edge and rushes the quarterback. They may line up in different gaps along the line, but they'll most likely never drop into coverage. The 4-3 DE has a greater responsibility in stopping the run. Therefore, it's easier for opposing offenses to focus their efforts on an individual player when you don't have to doubt his intentions.

"If Garrett rushes the QB more often than Watt, shouldn't he have more sacks?" Ask yourself; are you going to double or triple-team the guy that rushes sometimes, or the one that rushes every time?

Let's talk player stats and advanced stats for a moment since it seems to be one of the biggest misconceptions within the comparison. Think of player stats as a table of contents; you scroll or flip to see what's covered within a book, or article. Are you satisfied that you understand the actual materials within your reading? Or do you find the section, or stat in this case, to learn about each one?

Advanced stats are the story behind each player's stat. It's why Steelers fans hate pass rush win rates, and double team percentage because it disputes their claims, and they can't understand why Garrett's would be higher if Watt is seemingly the more productive player. People say that the pass rush win rate stat is a made-up statistic, or "almost sack", but that's because they lose focus of the team aspect and focus on the individual.

In its simplest terms, it's an accumulation of how often the defender wins and breaks through the line of scrimmage. Garrett had a win rate of roughly 11 percent higher than Watt. Double-team rates equate to how often the defender faces more than just a single blocker. Garrett was double-teamed at twice the rate as Watt.

When you look at their sacks at face value you tell yourself that Watt is more productive. However, when you analyze the "story" of each sack, you see that opposing offenses place a higher emphasis on stopping Garrett, and Watt has more free shots at the QB. If a team game plans completely around ensuring the QB can get the ball out of his hands quicker, it will ultimately slow down stats such as sacks, QB hurries, and QB hits. If a team threw the ball 12 times in one game against Pittsburgh and Watt never got a sack, would you assume he was unproductive?

When you compare both players on tape, it's clear why Myles Garrett won DPOY. I analyzed both players' most productive game of the 2024 season statistically: Watt against the 49ers, and Garrett against the Titans, and here is what I found. When Watt faced a chip block or double team, he was shoved around and his progression was halted.

On all three of his sacks, he was wrapping Brock Purdy between four to five seconds of the snap. One sack was completely untouched, one was when the play broke down and Purdy was scrambling, and the third was simply a good football move to beat the RT. Purdy seemed more focused on Alex Highsmith than Watt, which Watt capitalized on by strip sacking from the blindside.

Garrett, on the other hand, forced the Titans into an offensive scheme that consisted of screens and dumps to get the ball out of Ryan Tannehill's hands. Garrett had 3.5 sacks, which occurred roughly two-to-three seconds after the ball was snapped.

On one specific snap, Garrett dominated through three blockers to sack Tannehill in three seconds. On another play specifically, he caused a delay of the game because Tennessee assigned two tight ends to motion with him, and he bounced back and forth along the line of scrimmage, denying them the ability to get set. Let's not forget that the Steelers got completely blown out by the 49ers and Purdy looked like an MVP candidate while the Browns did the opposite to Tannehill and the Titans.

Simply put, opposing teams view Garrett as more dangerous than Watt, probably not by much, but it's noticeable. You don't have to listen to me, I am not an expert, just simply a fan. You also don't have to listen to PFF when they rated Garrett as the number-one returning player in the NFL at all positions. Or the fact that Garrett is likely to be higher than Watt on the NFL Top 100 returning players, voted on by the players for the second year in a row.

But hey, what would NFL players know about who the better NFL player is?

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