By: Will Burchfield
Pro Football Focus has always been kind to TJ Lang.
TJ Lang does not care for Pro Football Focus.
In fact, he thinks the advanced analysis website is “absolute garbage,” especially when it comes to grading linemen.
“My opinion is there’s no way you can possibly accurately grade offensive linemen if you haven’t done that job before in your life. A lot of these guys, they’re not qualified to be grading NFL players,” Lang told the Valenti Show on 97.1 The Ticket. “A lot of the stuff I realize is pretty basic, obvious information. If I clearly just get whooped and let up a sack, you can say, ‘Yeah, that guy let up a sack.'”
Otherwise, he believes, the so-called experts are in over their heads.
“But they don’t know anything about identification, what offensive linemen are supposed to do. They think if a guy blitzes off the edge, that’s automatically the tackle’s block, but a lot of times that’s not the case. They’ve always graded me well, which I don’t mind, but I still don’t respect it,” Lang said.
Apparently, most NFL players feel the same way.
“I know most of the guys that I’ve played with absolutely hate it, just because it’s started to gain so much steam now where Sunday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, they’re actually showing stats up there for the players,” said Lang. “I think it’s absolute garbage and I think most players do.”
PFF hands out numerical grades based on qualitative analysis. This is what rubs Lang the wrong way. He feels the complexity of a linemen’s job makes it impossible for an outsider to accurately evaluate it.
“I think some positions are easier to grade. If you see a quarterback make a bad decision, that’s obviously easy to grade. But when it comes to offensive and defensive line play,” he said, “there’s just so much scheme that goes into what we do up front that nobody else outside of the building can possibly know what we’re supposed to do.
“But you’re trying to grade guys negatively and give guys bad reputations. You’re throwing out, ‘This guy missed an assignment here.’ You don’t know what the assignment is, so you have no qualification to say that in the first place. All it does it make guys look bad because now a lot of media outlets are quoting PFF and using their grades.”
The appeal of PFF is that it doesn’t grade a player’s performance in a vacuum. (All interceptions aren’t created the same.) It considers context as much as outcome — Lang just believes that context is beyond the evaluators’ reach.
“If a guy clearly gets beat, that’s one thing. But if you’re going to say, ‘This guy didn’t pick up the linebacker, this guy missed a blitz,’ there’s no possible way that you can know that unless you know what the offensive linemen’s responsibilities are. And nobody else knows that,” Lang said. “I don’t know what Arizona’s offensive line does. They might do something completely different than what we do.
“Especially a guy sitting on the outside behind his computer looking at the game, there’s no way he knows what the hell’s going on either. It’s a total joke, in my opinion, as far as it goes grading offensive linemen.”
Lang will appear on the Valenti Show on 97.1 The Ticket this season every Tuesday from 5 to 6.