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Cowboys Rookie Bryan McCann: When Stats Don't Tell The Whole Story

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In many ways, it feels like "Bryan McCann Week" on BTB and in Cowboys country this week. McCann was named the NFC Defensive Player Of The Week, he is one of five candidates for NFL Rookie Of The Week, Dave looked at the Cowboys' new defensive philosophy using McCann as one example yesterday, and Coach Garrett was also very complimentary of McCann in his press conference yesterday.

But among all the accolades for his game-changing interception, there are those who point out that apart from that one play, McCann's performance was nothing to write home about. The folks at looked at an array of stats and concluded that McCann had a dreadful performance.

It says something about the day of CB Bryan McCann that he can record a grade of -1.9 despite returning a pick for a touchdown. That ball was the only pass thrown into his coverage that wasn’t complete, and it owed a lot to Hakeem Nicks giving up on the route. McCann struggled with Mario Manningham in particular, allowing three passes for 59 yards to the speedy wideout.

With the exception of the INT, every pass thrown McCann's way was a completion. But honestly, what else would you expect from an UDFA in his first full NFL game? And are the raw stats really the way you want to look at McCann's performance?

In his press conference yesterday, Garrett spent some time talking about McCann:

He obviously made the big play and I thought he fought hard throughout the game. They’re [Giants] very talented at receiver, and they made a couple of plays on him. But he’s one of those guys that all the good corners – really, all the good players – have this ability: He just keeps coming back. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by it, he just keeps playing, tries to play with good technique. He’s a tenacious guy. He’s an achiever. He makes plays when he’s out there and keeps fighting, and even if they have some success, he’s not going away. He showed that in the ballgame.

Garrett’s point about the player hustling, being tenacious, continuing to fight hard and never giving up despite his miscues: That is a ringing endorsement in my book, and the way I would want all my players to play, day in, day out. The stats will follow, as will the wins. Bob Sturm has a similar take on McCann:

I also loved how he fought Hakeem Nicks with all of his ability on Sunday in coverage. He lost quite a few of the battles, but Nicks is a superstar in the making, so he is on a long list of DBs that will lose some against him. This is the type of player the Cowboys need to find.

Stats are great at telling you what happened. If a corner gives up completions on five of six passes thrown his way and gets a 35-yard PI call, the stats say that’s a pretty bad performance.

But the stats don't necessarily tell you how well that corner actually played. It doesn’t tell you anything about the quality of players he was facing, it doesn’t tell you about the five tackles he made immediately after the catch, it doesn’t tell you how close he was to defending each of those passes.

The point here is that even the best stats only tell us the results of what happened, not the process. And since I’m now a Garrett man, I am going to emphasize The Process over and over and over. Over a large sample size, good stats are usually a good indicator of a players’ performance. However, if you look at the stats of five throws in one game, it's highly probable that the stats won’t actually tell you much about how a player played that day.

In fact, I believe that they tell you almost nothing at all.

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