Over the years, one of the most important things I've learned from sharing my love for the Bears on the web is that statistics are not the way that you should measure the quality of an NFL player. The only true way to measure a player's value is to watch his play by reviewing his games. Thought it takes far less work to look at statistics, the extra time that it takes to review the games is well worth the effort before drawing any final conclusions. Much like a quote taken out of context, throwing out statistics alone without validating them by watching “tape”, can be very misleading.
The impetus for Dan Pompei's suggestion that Tommie Harris should be brought back to the Bears was that his sack and pressure statistics were better than those of Matt Toeaina and Stephen Paea. However, just because Harris had better statistics than Paea and Toeaina, that does not mean that he's been more productive of a player, per pass-rushing snap, than either of them. Paea did not play until later in his rookie season and he had virtually no off-season before doing so. Even then, it took the Bears some time before they felt comfortable enough to play Paea on passing downs. Likewise, Toeaina's statistics can not be fairly compared to Harris' either as Toeaina's snaps came mostly on running, not passing downs.
While the statistics on their own might appear to show that Tommie Harris has been more “productive” than Matt Toeaina and Stephen Paea, the truth revealed by watching the tape does not concur in any way whatsoever. I took a look at a few of Tommie's 2011 games, including his only start versus the Green Bay Packers, to let the tape tell me the truth that statistics never could. The truth is that Tommie's play has yet show that he's regained the strength in his legs that he's been missing since he began his decline with the Bears. While the initial quickness can still be seen at times, the strength is nowhere to be seen. I was hoping I'd see some kind of improvement, with him being further removed from those injuries, but that was not the case. Unfortunately for Tommie, the power that he used to have in his legs, which made him a disruptive force in the past, seems to be gone for good.
Would Tommie Harris be a welcome addition among his teammates? Of course he would. His teammates still love him and would welcome him back with open arms, much like they did last year when Chris Harris returned. The difference with Chris' return is that he still had a decent amount of athletic tools remaining to be productive whereas Tommie does not have enough strength left in his lower legs to be very effective at the NFL level.
And so I end this blog with a final word of advice to my fellow Bears fans. Never base any final conclusions on statistics alone. Yes, they're easy to look at and they're a nice place to start, but nothing compares to reviewing the games, themselves. Never forget, statistics can be twisted, but the tape don't lie, my friends.