Everyone knows Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt had a good season, but Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was “good season” doesn’t even come close to describing how well Watt played in 2012.
According to Phillips, Watt had the greatest season that any defensive linemen ever has had in the history of the sport.
“He had the best season ever. Nobody’s ever had a season like that,” Phillips said Thursday.
That’s a bold statement, but Phillips has spent 35 years as a defensive line coach, defensive coordinator or head coach in the NFL, and he knows what he speaks of when he discusses defensive line play. Phillips noted that he coached Hall of Fame defensive ends Elvin Bethea and Bruce Smith, and he said that as great as those two guys were, neither of them ever had a year as good as Watt’s 2012.
Watt’s 2012 season really was amazing: He led the league in sacks with 20.5 and knocked down another 16 passes, and he’s not just a one-dimensional pass rusher. He’s also one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL against the run. FootballOutsiders.com uses play-by-play data to compile a stat they call “defeats,” which combines every time a defensive player forces a turnover, gets a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, or gets a tackle or tipped pass to prevent a conversion on third or fourth down. The Football Outsiders play-by-play data goes back two decades, and until this season the single-season record for defeats belonged to Ray Lewis, who had 45 defeats in 1999. This year Watt obliterated that record, with 56 defeats.
Phillips may be right. Watt might not just be the Defensive Player of the Year for 2012. He might also have had the best season any defensive player has ever had, in any year.