The words you are about to read come hours before the Super Bowl, but don’t be fooled, Aaron Donald didn’t need a ring at all to legitimize his career: Donald didn’t need a ring to deserve what I am. .writing, in fact not long ago he had already tried to describe the uniqueness of it.
Sunday night’s victory, in the stadium built also thanks to their sacks, does not represent a finishing point, but an effective summary of a race that I feel comfortable defining as unique and inimitable: habit, perhaps, has desensitized us but we can’t afford to take the Los Angeles Rams’ number 99 for granted for a second.
In the rare moments when I talk about football in real life with friends or friends who only had the opportunity to decide that football and rugby are two completely different sports during the Super Bowl, I am often asked who is the best player in the NFL. : The weak cultural heritage of this discipline in Italy leads everyone to automatically think that I will respond by pointing to a quarterback because, after all, his encounters with American football have probably been thanks to movies in which the star of the team is inevitably the quarterback.
You can’t imagine his astonishment, then, when my choice falls on a defensive tackle: but what is a defensive tackle?
This, in the case of Aaron Donald, is a more than legitimate question because watching him play many times we forget that we are talking about a defensive tackle because his exploits, in theory, should not compete with a performer of this position.
– B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) February 15, 2022
We often forget, I easily include myself in the speech, that Donald is an interior lineman, that his main job shouldn’t be to pressure the opposing quarterback, but to make life a little easier for those around him by staying busy. a couple of O-linemen click after click.
You see, touting ten-sack seasons with the nonchalance with which Belichick and Brady’s New England Patriots dominated their division is utterly silly for an interior lineman: in Aaron Donald’s case a few dozen sacks represent half a disappointment because among the many things that disintegrated in recent years we also find logic, the same logic that we had to sacrifice in the vain attempt to understand what we witnessed.
Aaron Donald is the best player in the NFL in the Golden age quarterbacks: What until Sunday was a thought reserved only for hipsters or Pro Football Focus has become an incontrovertible fact.
At thirty years old, this man has won everything he could humanly win and, if it were not an award unfairly prerogative of quarterbacks, Donald could also boast the MVP of his insane 2018, a year that ended in 20.5 sacks, record of everything comfortably. time for an interior lineman.
What impressed me the most is not so much the enrichment of his showcase after the victory over the Bengals, but the contribution he made to get there.
The only blemish on his career, according to some, was the tendency to dissolve during the postseason and to corroborate this stupid thesis he always ended up pointing the finger at Super Bowl LIII and his relatively meager tally of 5 total tackles and no sacks.
These stats hide the fact that the New England Patriots’ entire offensive game plan was focused on him, on a defensive tackle – to limit, keep in mind, not “cancel” but “limit”, good old Donald Belichick has it doubled, if not tripled. , systematically forcing Brady to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible so as not to give him material time to pounce on him.
I know, this is probably an exaggeration, but I am more than convinced that such a fact gives us a very accurate indication of its absolute value, since being at the center of the thoughts of the greatest manager of all time is not exactly fleeting. that everyone can boast.
Top-ranked Interior Defender by season since 2014:
2021 – Aaron Donald – 93.5
2020 – Aaron Donald – 94.2
2019 – Aaron Donald – 93.6
2018 – Aaron Donald – 94.8
2017 – Aaron Donald – 94.4
2016 – Aaron Donald – 92.6
2015 – Aaron Donald – 92.9
2014 – Aaron Donald – 90.2 pic.twitter.com/ST5he6qUcn
– PFF (@PFF) February 15, 2022
In these playoffs, Donald has taken the satisfaction of making such criticism obsolete and objectively ridiculous by flaring up in the crucial moments of the tournament’s most sensitive games, the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl.
In fact, we must not forget that in the only game of the postseason that ended without a sack, it was he who pressured Garoppolo on the ‘Niners’ last offensive play, a third chance sabotaged by Donald who in a short time had his hands on the handsome quarterback forcing him into a futile yet poignant breakout attempt that ended with the interception that finally ended the dispute.
In four games, according to PFF, Donald has racked up 23 total pressures — remember, defensive tackle — and four sacks, numbers that rival the best pass-rusher in history: Donald is arguably one of the best pass-rushers in history despite his position does not. he does not even allow us to define it as such.
During the regular season, according to PFF, Donald played 1,040 snaps, the highest number for an interior lineman ever measured by the site in its history, that is, since 2006: taking the playoffs into account, this figure rises to 1,261, a Totally meaningless number for this position.
Donald is not “just” -although it would be more than enough- an excellent pass-rusher, but for years he has been one of the best rushing defenders in the league and although this fact often takes a backseat because in 2022 nobody considers running more – irony -, I hope I managed to impress you a little more.
Forgive me for the aseptic statistical digression, but I think that a couple of numbers here and there can be extremely useful to understand a being that is very little human.
He said that the great players are recognized as such mainly by the tendency to exalt themselves in the fundamental moments of the season, those capable of redefining the history of an entire team and of a city becoming such iconic episodes that they transcend time.
Lawrence Taylor’s career has become legendary precisely because of his historic ability to get entire families of rabbits out of the hat by splitting a game in two with a single play, the best performance of Reggie White’s career may have come to the Super Bowl With three sacks, Ray Lewis became a legend during the Ravens’ trip to the Lombardi in 2000, Ed Reed and Ronnie Lott not coincidentally share the top rung of the interception podium during the playoffs – I could go on for a few more lines, but I think you managed to identify the common thread.
Donald, like his new roommates on the NFL’s Mount Olympus, gives his best when his team needs him most, and it may be enough to guarantee sports immortality.
“Aaron Donald is going to do a play.”
Sean McVay had no doubt that AD would come up in the clutch @brgridiron
– Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 15, 2022
Sunday’s victory definitively enshrined Aaron Donald as not only the best defender of our generation, but one of the best in the history of the game: in a world where GOATs are rotated weekly, associating this acronym with Aaron Donald is finally legitimate. .
This Super Bowl Donald personally picked it up, no matter how many offensive linemen laid their hands on him, the last beat of his game prevented Burrow from seeing Chase completely free in the depths of saving the Rams – is there anything more appropriate and poetic? what is done? ?
With the usual mixture of suppressed anger and controlled violence, Donald answered the most important call of his life, thus granting himself an immortality that can truly be grasped by anyone, even those who have approached this discipline for a few weeks or months. or that they have football I only watch it for the Super Bowl.
Let me tell you, in the event that the one played at SoFi Stadium against the Bengals really was his last game in the NFL, Aaron Donald wrote one of the most appropriate and epic endings I can remember, a true masterpiece that allows you to thank once and for all. once and for all to a player who has made the last decade of the NFL infinitely more fun and yes, I am aware that associating the concept of fun with a defensive tackle is somewhat bizarre, but so be it.
The hope, of course, is to see him on the pitch in September but at this point he really has nothing more to prove to anyone, the inevitable sadness would give way to our sense of satisfaction and gratitude aroused by the total absence of regrets in a career that should find space in an epic book.