According to the statistical analysis from Pro Football Focus, Andrew Whitworth finished the 2010 season as the league's most productive offensive lineman. Better than Jake Long, Jahri Evans, Joe Thomas, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Jordan Gross and Chad Clifton, all of whom ranked in the top-100 during the NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2011; a list that Whitworth was excluded from. Whitworth allowed less quarterback sacks than the more popular Long, Thomas, Gross, Damien Woody, Jordan Gross, Ryan Clady and Matt Light. Obviously Whitworth isn't as popular, even though detailed analysis produces a much different result.
ESPN did worse than the NFL Network by ranking the top 10 offensive tackles in the NFL, ranked by writers and not analysts. The fraudulent results excluded Whitworth from the list with three writers not even adding Whitworth to their survey and the AFC North's own James Walker ranking him tenth; behind Tampa Bay's Donald Penn, who was graded by Pro Football Focus as the 45th best offensive tackle, worse than Kansas City's Branden Albert who allowed 10 quarterback sacks.
But it's not like Whitworth hasn't been recognized, voted as the team's MVP by the Cincinnati chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. Fans across the league recognized Whitworth by rewarding him with the most votes in the fan portion of the Pro Bowl. Big Whitworth was eventually shutout of the Pro Bowl once the players and coaches vote were tallied. Sports Illustrated's Peter King ranked Whitworth 68th in his own Top 100 Players of 2011.
NFL Network's Pat Kirwan is currently ranking players based on their position during the past month. Rather than a straight out numbers ranking, Kirwan is grouping players in groups of five with the best five in Group A, the second-best group of five players in Group B, and so forth.
Ranking offensive linemen half a month ago, Kirwan grouped Whitworth in Group C, ranking at least 13 offensive linemen ahead of Whitworth.
Coaches around the league have liked Whitworth since he became a starter 70 games ago. His leadership skills have emerged since the lockout as he organized team workouts.
As we've repeatedly pointed out, rankings are subjective beasts often incorporating a writer's personal experience, observation and preference. A site like Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders (well known favorites of mine) examines the players performances on the field. We understand the difference and ultimately discard a writer's point of view (with the lone exception of your awesome local CincyJungle.com website, of course) because they often turn into another popularity contest.
And the truth is, we're fine with that because most of these rankings are generated to create debates with their readers. At the same time, it does make us wonder if we haven't over-valued Whitworth compared to the offensive tackles in the NFL. And after producing the period on the previous sentence, I realized that they're wrong and Bengals fans are right. That's the only explanation. One were satisfied with.