Hester Effect Another Example of Why Numbers Don’t Tell the Story

Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune highlights the role that Devin Hester played in the Bears victory over the Jets:

Jay Cutler threw three touchdown passes.

Johnny Knox caught two of them.

Chris Harris had two takeaways.

Matt Forte averaged 5.9 yards per carry.

“But none of the “stars of the game” impacted the Bears’ 38-34 victory over the Jets more than Devin Hester.”

Pompei points out that despite good but not great numbers, Hester impacted the game as much or more than any of these players.  The Jets couldn’t get away from him.  They could kick it out of bounds, they could kick it short, they could fake a punt, they could accidentally kick it to him.  Anyway you look at it the result was superb field position that the Bears offense took advantage of all game.  Jets punter Steve Weatherford explained part of the problem via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Unless he’s not able to get to the ball, I know it’s coming back.  That’s why it’s so tough to punt up here. That’s why he’s so effective. It’s windy. It’s nasty. It’s slippery out there. It was pretty muddy — you’re not going to hit every punt perfect.’’

Bears head coach Lovie Smith put it well in Pompei’s article:

“They did a good job of trying to keep the ball away from him.  But it’s hard to just get a ball up on the 40-yard line or continue to try to kick it out of bounds and end up with a 10-yard punt. You have to eventually play.”

I’ve heard fans and even media say over and over again that if a player’s ability doesn’t show up in the statistics, you can generally conclude that he is overrated.  The numbers don’t lie.  But Hester is a prime example of why numbers do lie.  They lie like dogs, especially in the heads of people who who either don’t understand them or, worse yet, people who use them to purposely deceive.

Like Julius Peppers‘ impact on the Bears defense, Hester’s role in the win over the Jets can’t be described easily with numbers.  That’s why statistics are so useless in football.  You have to use your eyes if you want to see what’s going on.

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