Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Ronnie Brown: Feed The Beast

It’s frustrating to see Ronnie Brown fall victim to something I call Internet Perception Syndrome (IPS) among the Miami “faithful”. Thanks to the internet everyone is able to have their opinion reach a large number of people at a moments notice (blogs, message boards, emails, etc…). Unfortunately, the race to be the first to make a profound judgment oftentimes results in hollow statements lacking any sort of solid facts to support the claim. By the time anyone brings common sense and numbers to the table it’s usually too late to change the stubborn perceptions of the masses, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try...

The Miami Dolphins organization hadn’t drafted anyone higher than 15th since 1992 (Troy Vincent – 7th, and Marco Coleman – 12th) and hadn’t drafted a running back in the top ten since 1989. In 2005, when they selected Ronnie Brown second overall, they hoped he was anything but the next Sammie Smith.

Naturally, the expectations were off the charts from a fan base that was used to winning and was ready for a new face of the offense in the wake of the Ricky Williams debacle. To further complicate matters for Brown, he was coming into the league with several question marks including being able to carry a full workload in the NFL after splitting carries at Auburn with Cadillac Williams.

Entering his third season, he’s yet to distinguish himself as an elite NFL running back and the list of critics is growing with each passing day. Fans have labeled him a bust and league pundits are close to doing the same. His own coach even implied that he hasn’t lived up to expectations (however unreasonable they may have been) while hinting that he may split carries with a running back that has all of 79 career rushing attempts and was overweight and out of football for the 2006 season (Jesse Chatman).

It’s tough to believe that we were spoiled after just one phenomenal 2002 season from the dreadlocked enigma that we wouldn’t give anyone else another shot if they didn’t produce the same way immediately, but that seems to be the case. All things considered, Brown’s performance/numbers simply don’t warrant the degree of disparagement he’s received this offseason.

If you look at the overall numbers, you’re surely not going to be overly impressed (1915 yards rushing and 9 rushing TDs over 2 seasons). But simply looking at overall numbers is usually what leads people to misconceptions, so let’s take a deeper look at Brown's sophomore season.

Ronnie Brown:
13 Games: 4.2 YPC, 8.4 Yards per reception, 98.7 total yards per game, 5 TD’s, 9 plays over 20 yards, 4 fumbles. Those numbers are comparable if not better than the other RB’s drafted near him in the 2005 draft and aside from the lack of TD's they also stack up pretty well to the second year numbers of top RB’s such as Steven Jackson, Shaun Alexander, Willis McGahee and others.

98.7 yards a game would put him just under 1600 yards for the season. Only 7 running backs had more than 1600 yards from scrimmage last year:
Steven Jackson
Ladainian Tomlinson
Larry Johnson
Frank Gore
Tiki Barber
Brian Westbrook
Willie Parker

A couple of notes here:
Average record of the teams of those players was roughly 9-7 (all of which were in playoff contention). The Dolphins were 6-10. Did anyone on that list have a worse offensive line than Ronnie Brown? Did anyone on that list have a less threatening passing game than the dolphins (you could probably argue the chiefs, but that’s about it)? Did any of those players have Mike Mularkey calling triple reverse half back passes in the red zone? :)

You see where I’m going, but here’s the other thing. If Ronnie didn’t miss those 3 games (to a flukey finger injury) last year (where Sammy Morris averaged 104 total yards per game replacing him) he likely would have been in the top 8 in total yards from scrimmage in the NFL. In his second year in the league (first as a full time back), he would have accomplished that despite the team’s deficiencies around him and despite the following list showing you the avg. number of touches per game:

Steven Jackson – 27.2 touches per game
Ladainian Tomlinson – 25.3
Larry Johnson – 28.5
Frank Gore – 23.3
Tiki Barber – 24.1
Brian Westbrook – 21.1
Willie Parker – 23.0
Ronnie Brown – 21.0

I could pull up countless other stats that show Ronnie is doing his job when called upon, but this post has already ran far longer than I had intended. I didn’t even get to mention his pass blocking skills, his work ethic, or his character, but I’ll leave you with this.

Look back at the 2005 draft and see how many people drafted in the top 10 you’d rather have over Ronnie Brown right now. RB23 is not the problem. I hope the coaching staff and front office don’t give up on him as quickly as the fans seem to be. Surround him with any form of help, FEED THE BEAST, and watch him explode onto the scene.

Believe in Ronnie Brown. Believe in football.


Anonymous said...

Nice column, I agree with it. I found this at FInheaven. You may want to put a post at the herald or some other sites too, if you want more feedback.

Anonymous said...

GPIA. Everyone needs to stop hating on the guy. I think he'll do great the next couple years w/ Cam2.