With Rod Woodson’s Hall of Fame Enshrinement fast approaching, Maryrose over at Behind the Steel Curtain, wrote an excellent post reviewing Rod Woodson’s career and accomplishments, with, of course, a focus on his time as a Steeler. I will not try to parallel or top his post. My plan is to review Woodson’s career interception numbers against some of the other all time great DBs and see if a compelling case can be made that he was the greatest DB of all time. My “inspiration” for this idea was hearing that he had the most Pro Bowl starts of any DB in NFL history, which was mentioned on NFL Total Access last night.
So, let’s take a look at the numbers. From www.pro-football-reference.com, I pulled the numbers for the leaders in Career Interceptions (INT), Career Interception Return Yards (INT Ret Yds), and Career Interceptions Returned for TDs (INT Ret TD). For Career Interceptions, I decided that the cutoff should be players with more than 60 interceptions. It was an arbitrary decision because the next person had 58 and there were several with 57, including Mel Blount (sorry Mel). For Interception Return Yards, my cutoff was players with greater than 1000 yards. This seemed like a good cutoff, since 1000 yards is considered significant in the NFL and the next player was ranked 10th. So, I got the top 9. Then, for INTs Returned for TDs, my cutoff was 7 TDs because that tied for 7th place in history with 6 players having 7 interceptions returned for TDs.
First, the list of players with more than 60 career INTs.
|Rank||Player||Career INT||INT/ Year||Years Played||Pro Bowls||1st Team All-Pro|
|4||Night Train Lane+||68||4.86||14||7||3|
Next, the players with greater than 1000 yards in interception returns.
|Rank||Player||INT Ret Yds||Ret Yds/Yr||Years Played||Pro Bowls||1st Team All-Pro|
|4||Night Train Lane+||1207||86.21||14||7||3|
And finally, the players with 7 or more INTs for TDs.
|Rank||Player||INT Ret TD||Ret TD/Yr||Years Played||Pro Bowls||1st Team All-Pro|
The first thing that jumps out at me is that Rod Woodson is ranked 1st in two of the three lists and he’s third on the other. The second thing is that he is the ONLY player on all three lists. But, these are just rankings of raw data. I also calculated each player’s statistics on a per year basis. As you can see, Rod compared favorably with these players on a per year basis as well. He is first in INTs for TDs and 4th in return yards/year. He did come in 7th in INTs/year, but there was not a large deviation in these averages. In addition, as already noted, the other players on this list are absent from one or both of the other two lists.
In addition to statistics, which I think show very favorably for Woodson, I also pulled the number of times that each player was elected to the Pro Bowl or was voted first team All Pro. In this case, Woodson was one of only two players considered here that went to 10 or more Pro Bowls and was voted first team All Pro 6 times. The other was Ronnie Lott. Rod had one more Pro Bowl than Lott, and Lott did not make the cut in the return yards or return TDs lists.
That covers the interception statistics, but let’s not forget Rod’s KR and PR numbers. As Devin Hester has learned, pulling double duty can adversely impact a players numbers in one or both roles. Checking here will show you that Woodson has over 1300 more KR yards than Deion Sanders, who is next closest among these DBs. Although, checking here will show you that Deion does have 33% more KR TDs than Rod (Deion – 3, Rod – 2). Here you can see that Woodson is ranked tops in PR yardage, with the next closest DB considered here being just over 150 yards behind him. Deion does have him in the PR TD category, though, with 6 to Rod’s 2. But, overall, one would have to say that Rod comes out ahead in terms of total KR and PR numbers.
Based on this data, I am prepared to say that Rod Woodson is the greatest DB of all time. He went the Pro Bowl as both a CB and a Safety. He is the only player to rank in the top 3 in Interceptions, INT return yards, and INT TDs, ranking first in the latter two categories. He was the only CB to go to the Pro Bowl 11 times and be voted first team All Pro 6 times. He was also one of three players considered in this post who was voted the AP Defensive Player of the Year, as well as being the first. On top of that, he was a Pro Bowl caliber KR and PR for the first 8 years of his career. At the very least, one could argue that there is a compelling case to say that Woodson is the greatest DB ever.
What do you think?