Cal Football: LB Evan Weaver Snubbed

Photo by Darren Yamashita - USA TODAY Sports

Jake Curtis

I have always despised sports writers who openly root for the team they cover, then complain when the players on that team don’t get as much national recognition as that reporter seems to think those players deserve.

It’s the worst form of homerism.

Well, today I am joining that repulsive homerism club, but for just one day.

My ire is directed at Pro Football Focus, an entity that many in the general public probably know nothing about. But the metrics and statistics that outlet uses to grade players have gained some favor among media types, giving PFF some credibility.

Well, it lost a lot of credibility with me with the all-Pac-12 football team PFF released this week. Those selections were referenced in our “community” section this morning, but one aspect of the PFF’s selections deserves special mention: 

Cal linebacker Evan Weaver was not selected to PFF’s all-Pac-12 first team.

Let me repeat that:

Cal linebacker Evan Weaver was not selected to PFF’s all-Pac-12 first team.

That is not a misprint. Weaver was named to the all-conference second team, but not the first.

At first I assumed PFF was projecting players in terms of their pro potential, and I can see where Weaver has some shortcomings in the eyes of NFL officials.

But here is how PFF described its selections:

“The dust has settled on the 2019 regular season at the FBS level and it's time to take a look back. Ahead of the conference championships, we take a look at the best players at their respective positions with an in-depth look at how they graded over the course of the full season.

“Utilizing our play-by-play grades of every player on every play of every game, our All-Pac-12 team takes into account every player's actions on the field on Saturdays while also utilizing our wealth of signature statistics to determine the list. The strength of opponent and consistent play also factor into our selections detailed below.”

That doesn’t sound like a pro projection, just an assessment of how players performed this year. And I would suggest that PFF folks trust their eyes to some extent instead of relying solely on its statistics.

You will note that no Cal player was selected to the PFF first team, and I have no problem with center Mike Saffell being relegated to the second team and offensive tackle Jake Curhan, safety Ashtyn Davis and interior defensive lineman Brett Johnson being named only to the third team. Cornerback Cam Bynum should be in there somewhere, but so be it. This is about Weaver.

The fact that Weaver leads the nation in tackles by a wide margin is merely the start of the argument for Weaver. He has also forced three fumbles, which puts him among the nation’s leaders in that category, as well as recording 10 tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries.

But I can’t rely on stats if I am criticizing the use of metrics and stats.

So consider these issues:

Weaver is one of six finalists for the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker, and no other Pac-12 player is on that list.

Weaver was named to the midseason first-team All-American team by both USA Today and ESPN, and Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewel was the only other Pac-12 player on either list.

And I recall the Pac-12 Network several times during the season providing a list of Heisman Trophy hopefuls from the Pac-12, and Weaver was on several occasions one of just a few players on that list.

Maybe I am swayed by Weaver’s outspoken manner after both wins and losses, which makes him a media darling. (Check out the video below, taken following the win over Washington State, to see why media folks love having Weaver to quote.)

Maybe I am biased because I see the impact he makes game after game, something I can’t do regarding other standout linebackers.

Maybe the fact that Cal had a mediocre conference record (4-5) diminishes Weaver’s status.

Maybe I just don't grasp the relevance of sophisticated football statistics.

Maybe I’m just a disgusting homer.

Maybe.

But maybe the official all-Pac-12 team, which comes out next week, will confirm my belief that Weaver was underrated by PFF’s numbers. I would be particularly pleased if Weaver is named the conference defensive player of the year, which is unlikely but not out of the question. 

And I might gloat a bit if Weaver is named to one of the reputable All-American teams in the coming weeks.

Not that I, as a journalist, have any rooting interest.

Here's Weaver following the win over Washington State:

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