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Troy Polamalu Retires: Brian Dawkins was better

Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Troy Polamalu is retiring. The Pittsburgh Steelers safety is finally hanging them up after a very successful 12-year career. Polamalu is likely bound to the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in the future. He won't be undeserving.

But since we're talking about the legacies of Pennsylvania NFL safeties, it's only right that we bring up Brian Dawkins, right? Because, you know, Dawkins was better. And while Eagles fans already know that, some others might not give Dawkins the respect he rightfully deserves when he first becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2017.

So here's a comparison between the two safeties (h/t Iggles Blog). First, a look at the raw stats.

Brian Dawkins 224 37 4 120 36 19 26 895 236
Troy Polamalu 158 32 5 108 14 7 12 581 197

Some might point out how Dawkins' volume stats are better because he played longer than Polamalu did. That's not untrue. But I would also argue that Dawkins should be rewarded for his longevity.

Other metrics favor Dawkins as well. Brian Burke of Advanced Football Analytics notes that Dawkins is the No. 1 safety in both +Expected Points Added (EPA) and +Win Probability Added. Dawkins ranks tied for 77th of all-time players with a total of 140 Approximate Value (AV). Polamalu ranks tied for 210th (along with Troy Vincent and John Lynch) with a total of 117 AV.

When it comes to award, Dawkins finished his career with nine Pro Bowl honors along with six All-Pro team honors. Polamalu finished with eight and five respectively, though he also finished as the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. A key difference which favors Polamalu in the eyes of some will be the Super Bowl rings. Obviously Dawkins has none of those. It's hard to say Dawkins didn't deserve a pair of his own, if not at least just one. But this is why some might give Polamalu the edge, which is unfortunate for Dawkins.

Once again, Polamalu was a great player. He was incredibly fun to watch. But Dawkins was better. Hopefully for his sake the Hall of Fame will recognize that.

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