Let's settle this. This being the long dispute over the entire AFC North, the NFL, over the media. Who is the better player? With both Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu respectively hanging up the cleats the comparisons are once more ready. Now I am typing this from a blog service specifically for the Baltimore Ravens, but I have the utmost respect for the long haired Head & Shoulders front man. I will do this by the numbers and my opinion; albiet doing my best to take off my purple tinted glasses.
The short answer which is also a cop-out, yet 100% truth: Nobody is better. Nobody is better than the other because we are comparing two completely different positions with two completely different skill-sets necessary for two different tasks in two different defensive schemes. Plain and simple. But i'm not going to leave this lying around. I want to look it all up for myself and get to the bottom of it. Inside will be my personal feelings and affections for both safeties, and then I'll be handing you the stats you all want.
Troy was a dominating in-the-box safety and used in a zone blitz scheme packaged for sacks, run stopping ability, and skillful coverage. Polamalu was truly playing the most versitile position at one point. He was anywhere from in between the defensive ends, next to linebackers, shifted to the strong and weak side, and could be anywhere from the line-of-scrimmage to the deepest player back covering. The versatility of #43 is still something unsurpassed in my eyes. The man not only intercepted passes, recovered fumbles, scored touchdowns, punished backs and receivers alike, but he did it on the highest level. Not college, not pro, but Hall of Fame. It sucked watching that man fly around the field like he possessed an unlimited turbo button and wreck player after player donning purple and black. Seriously. My biggest statement for Troy personally as a Ravens fan: You're without a doubt one of the best to do it. I loved watching your skill, talent, and prowess, but dammit I will not miss you punishing our team twice a year every year.
Ed Reed was and will most certainly be my favorite player of all time. The reason I became a fan of the Miami Hurricanes, and became a Baltimore Ravens football lover. Do you remember playing pee-wee football, or in PE class playing flag football? You imagined yourself becoming the fastest on the playing field. Your agility was lightning. Hands made of vacuums. Your play making ability #1. And when the ball was in your hands you imagined yourself being lethal. You know exactly who you just pictured yourself as; Ed Reed. #20 is the man, and a bad man at that. Every time I play Madden using the Ravens, Jim Nantz and Phil Sims say, "Player to watch today, Ed. Reed. What do you think of him?" "Well what can you say? He's Willie Mays. Plays center field better than anybody." That is exactly the truth. Ed's range was insurmountable. Man covered the entire backfield. He allowed his corners and other D-backs to cheat up on the LOS to allow more pressure because if they got beat Reed could bail them out. His responsibility was vital. My favorite little tidbit is Tom Brady's arm band. The photo is here. For those unable to read the writing, the line says, "FIND #20 ON EVERY PLAY" Proof to me that if you did not specifically game plan against him every single play, you would be in trouble the moment you forgot. A four time Super Bowl Champion is scared of Ed Reed, and he should be.
The stats. The numbers.
One more pro-bowl isn't a knock on Troy even a little bit. Not a big deal here.
These are the ones that count. This isn't the popularity pro-bowl. Reed leading with three more is a fair gap to give Ed a real push towards the "better" safety.
Super Bowl Champion
Ed: SB XLVII
Troy: SB XL , SBXLIII
It is one more Super-Bowl, and the Steelers went to the dance three times with Troy. But I attribute the SB wins to being a team rather than one safety. Nonetheless, edge up Troy.
Defensive Player of the Year
Tied and locked up.
Troy beats him out, and with him being an in the box safety you should expect that.
Ed wins, but not by much. Only 13 more. Impressive for Troy really.
Ed should have more, but I didn't think he would have Troy doubled up. Forcing 32 more turnovers than Troy is huge.
Ed: 1,590 (Yes, that is correct)
Where the stats tip the scales. And Hall of Fame Safety Ronnie Lott agrees.
Here’s where Ed Reed is better than I was or better than Kenny Easley or better than any safety who played the game. When he gets his hands on the ball after making an interception, he is no longer a defensive player running with the ball. He is an offensive player. It’s not just that he’s fast or quick, he knows how to run once he has the ball. He knows how to set up his blockers and he knows what moves to make. It’s like he’s Barry Sanders running with the ball.""He is a good hitter. He can really strike. Maybe I hit a little bit harder but it’s not like Reed is deficient in that area. He plays the run well. He tackles and he can cover. But what separates him from everybody who has played the position is his ability with the ball in his hands. "I really take note of it because it was something I wanted to do when I was playing. I wanted to make the moves Reed does when he has the ball. I couldn’t do that. He can."
Ed put up 78 points for his team throughout his career. Troy stacked up 18. Ed wins big.
Forcing turnovers is important, and the slight advantage Troy.
I expected more for Troy over his career with him and his flying over-the-line tackling self, but 12 sacks isn't a bad thing.
Overall, I give an honest man's effort to saying it's close, but I don't think it is. I really have Ed by a wide margin and it's deservedly so. Reed is the man. I would say the best ever but that will be an argument for another time. Until then I will just claim that Ed Reed is the better safety over Troy Polamalu.
Nonetheless, these men are both Hall of Fame caliber, and cherished or loathed in respective franchises, but one thing is certain. We'll both miss our great safeties. The plays, The bone-crushing hits, the awe-inspiring interceptions. The third and fourth downs that matter most. And watching them raise that glorious Lombardi trophy.