Let me start this off by saying I don't have anything against Aaron Francisco. He's a marginally average player at best. We all know he isn't a starting caliber safety. I think he knows it as well even though the Colts plopped him out there to start twelve games last year. It's the most games Francisco has ever started in his career. Not bad for a guy who, for all intents and purposes, was done with football after the Colts lost Super Bowl XLIV.
Following 2009, the Colts cut Francisco. The 2010 off-season, preseason, and start of the regulation came and went, and no team signed him. In October of 2010, the injuries at safety were crippling for the Colts. Bob Sanders, Jamie Silva, and Melvin Bullitt were all on the shelf, and even Brandon King (the team's fourth safety, converted from corner) was done. Indy was forced to re-sign Francisco, and insert him as the starter.
Then, according to Pro Football Focus, Francisco spent much of the season playing some truly terrible football.
According to PFF, Francisco was the 8th worst tackling safety in football in 2010. He missed ten tackles, which gave him an attempt-to-missed tackles score of 6.20. This puts him in the same category as safety Sean Considine, who has a whole Facebook page dedicated to how much he stinks.
The trending of 'Francisco Sucks' continues when you look at the numbers provided by AdvancedNFLStats.com. There, Francisco ranks as the 9th worst safety in pro football with a 0.31 'winning probability' stat listing.
Conversely, when you look at Antoine Bethea using PFF's system, he ranks as the 12th best tackling safety, and in the middle of the pack in terms of 'winning probability' at AdvancedNFLStats.com.
Again, as with most stats, I don't need numbers to tell me Aaron Francisco has no business starting for this or any other team at the safety position. I watch the games. I see the bad run defense and pass coverage. I know.
But, when you look at these stats and see where Colts defensive tackle Fili Moala falls, all this rhetoric from Bill Polian about how Moala is the team’s 'best defensive tackle' and that the 'sky is the limit' for him is kind of a load of steaming monkey poop.
Using AdvancedNFLStats.com's system, defensive tackles like Darnell Dockett, Ndamukong Suh, and Haloti Ngata are listed at the top of the DT 'Positive Expected Points Added' ranking. Heck, even the Colts Eric Foster is surprisingly listed up there, ranked 8th overall.
Ranked dead last is Fili Moala. Ranked just four spots above him is Daniel Muir.
Now, I think we all know that Daniel Muir stunk last year. What I find interesting is that some people still defend Moala despite mountains of evidence that tell us he was pretty terrible last season.
A pretty interesting stat AdvancedNFLStats.com's trumpeted last year was their 'Tackle Factor' stat. I'll let them describe it:
TF begins to untangle tackle stats by looking at a defender's share of his team's tackles. This accounts for the number of plays (and tackles) allowed by each defense. It then compares each defender's share of team tackles to the expected share of tackles by a player at his position. TF excludes special teams tackles and offensive tackles on turnovers. A TF of 1.0 would theoretically be average, but only if a defender has played in all of his team's snaps. TF is also adjusted for games played, so a player who has missed a few games due to injury isn't penalized.
When examining who was tops in the league in the 'tackle factor' department, the usual suspects are there: Suh, Ngata, Docket, etc.
Once again, Fili Moala is dead last. His tackle factor rating is 0.51.
Now, to be fair, the main right above Moala in the 'TF' department (second to last) is B.J. Raji of the Green Bay Packers. I'm going to go out on a limb and say he isn't the second worst DT in football. To AdvancedNFLStats.com's credit, they admit:
TF is not perfect. Some team's schemes call for certain positions to be space-eaters and some to be play-makers. There are other shortcomings too, most of which are discussed in the comment thread of the original post. Despite its flaws, it can still give us a good sense of who has a nose for the ball.
Raji, I think, qualifies as the 'space-eater' type. This might account for why his 'TF' is low. Moala, however, is NOT a space eater. He's a Tampa-2 DT.
So, where does Moala fall in PFF's rankings? Answer: Low.
Both Fili Moala and Daniel Muir set the bar extremely low for defensive tackle play in 2010, managing to both be moved around in the run game and offer very little as pass rushers. Take the playoff defeat to the Jets for example. The Colts lost that game because, at the start of the second half, the Jets line just decided to dominate Indianapolis’ defensive interior. It’s been a problem for a long time, and it really is one that needs an immediate remedy. Having our lowest ranked defensive tackle (Muir) and pairing him with a guy ranked 61st (Moala) just isn’t good enough.
So, there. We have two completely separate stats systems from two separate web stats who track stats both telling us Fili Moala sucked in 2010. I could also throw out there at Football Outsiders had the Colts defensive line ranked 28th overall in 2010, but I don't want nasty old Bill Polian calling me a 'stats geek.'
Look folks, I state all this because, at this point, I really don't take seriously any comments suggesting Fili Moala played well in 2010. That's like saying Bob Sanders only occasionally gets a little hurt. Anyone saying Fili played well in 2010 doesn't have these pesky little things we call 'facts' backing up their claim. Moala was awful in 2010, and if Bill Polian himself truly believes he was the 'best defensive tackle' on the team and that the 'sky is the limit,' then Bill Polian is completely deranged. Personally, I think he was lying to us over the radio when he said that stuff about Fili. At least, I hope he was lying.
I mean, two-and-a-half months after saying that, Polian drafted DT Drake Nevis from LSU in the third round. What's that tell you?
I'm not ready to call Fili a 'bust' yet, but he's getting close. They say a player makes his biggest leap from year one to year two. Fili's leap was from 'never playing' to 'sucking while playing.'
With someone like Aaron Francisco, I can understand why his ranking isn't so high. He's a guy signed off the scrap heap more for his excellent special teams skills than his safety play. Fili Moala is different. He's a second round pick. Players like that, for a team like the Colts, are expected to become quality starters. Right now, Fili Moala isn't a quality starter by all objective measurements we know.