We rarely appreciate greatness when it's in front of us, as Zombie Herman Melville will glumly tell you. So it is with Roddy White, whose contributions to this team are usually recognized only if they're followed by the word but. But the team should trade him and get value. But he's not the best receiver in the NFL, or even on his own team. But he talks a lot on Twitter!
Just for poops and chortles, let's take a look at how White's seven year career stacks up against Terrell Owens, perhaps the finest wide receiver of his generation who did not have truly elite deep speed.
White: 530 catches, 7,374 yards, 13.9 yards per catch, 45 touchdowns
Owens: 512 catches, 7,470 yards, 14.6 yards per catch, 72 touchdowns
It's obvious that Owens was the better receiver, especially in the red zone. But in everything but touchdowns, they're not all that far apart.
So now I've made my point that White is a damn good receiver. Let's circle back to Cox's article.
It turns out where White really excels is third downs, something we already knew intuitively. He's bailed Matt Ryan out more than once. Actually, he bailed him out 29 times.
That's right: White led the league with 35 third-down catches in 2011, and converted a first down on 29 of those. Did he have 15 drops? Yes, and that was terrible. But on 29 different occasions last season, he saved the Falcons from having to go for it on fourth down (we all remember those disasters) or giving the ball back to the opposing offense. That's absolutely fargin' huge.
This is why the Falcons aren't rushing to ship White out of town. Julio Jones will eclipse him soon—perhaps even this year—and Tony Gonzalez will remain a force to be reckoned with. But it's the tough, smart White who is Ryan's favored receiver when he's got to convert or get a few yards, and it's White who will remain so as long as he can handle it. Those third down numbers tell a story.
That's about as close to the concept as clutch as you're ever going to get, don't you think?