By most measures, the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton Rosen & Katz is the most financially productive in the country. With a specialty in Mergers & Acquisition, WLR&K produced more than four million dollars in revenue per attorney last year, which easily led the field. And based on reports in the press and my understanding of M&A in 2010, it stands to reason that Wachtell’s 80 some odd partners will be cashing obscene bonus checks sometime next month.
Do you know what other law firm had a sick 2010? Try this one …. Benjarvus Green-Ellis. If Wachtell is the Jim Brown of law firms, than Benjarvus Green-Ellis recently became the Sullivan & Cromwell or Cravath, Swaine & Moore of NFL running backs. At least he was in 2010 where his billable hours stack up very favorably against the best in the NFL. BGE may not get paid like a partner at Wachtell or Cravath but next year may be the last time one can make that claim.
Strangely, when opinion makers start flashing their knowledge of skill position studs, BGE rarely gets mentioned. Perhaps this is because he was undrafted out of Mississippi and 2010 is really his only body of work. Or maybe it’s because the talking heads can only love one hyphenated running back at a time and Maurice Jones-Drew is currently that guy. But whatever the reason, the fact of the matter is Green-Ellis is given only begrudging respect despite the fact that he had a really good season. So good in fact that his doubters are left with a pretty compromised case.
If you don’t believe me, let’s take a look at the numbers. Starting with the dumbbell metrics, BGE rushed this season for 1008 yards and thirteen scores on 229 carries. You do the division and you get 4.4 yds a carry, which just happens to be the same number you get with Jones-Drew. Now by this metric alone, BGE is ranked just 13th (tied) in the league. Admittedly, that isn’t exactly the stuff of Cravath. But if one digs a little further, BGE’s case gets a little more interesting.
This is because a couple of things really boost BGE’s case. First off, the guy never fumbles. And by “never,” I mean he hasn’t laid the ball on the ground since at least his senior year of HS in 2002. That isn’t an accident and when you factor his ball security into the “per carry” numbers, BGE shoots right on by guys like Ahmad Bradshaw, Tim Hightower and Chris Ivory. And depending how big a demerit you want to assign for each lost fumble – a minimum of fifty yards has to be deducted – BGE is pulling right even with guys like Arian Foster. Beyond that, BGE is extremely competent when it comes to picking up blitzes. This doesn’t find its way into the numbers but it shouldn’t be overlooked as Ellis is often the reason why Tom Brady has time to find downfield openings.
Digging further, we turn to Football Outsiders for their take on the stats. Now a word of caution …. FO’s numbers are not exactly unassailable. But based on their calculations, BGE’s running production, relative to an average replacement (think WAR in baseball), was the third best in the entire league. And when you look at BGE’s “success rate,” which measures his ability to avoid losses and pick up healthy gains on each carry, BGE comes out as the second best in the entire league. That is pretty heady stuff for a guy who couldn’t find his way into an ESPN Ray Rice conversation without first obtaining a court order.
Interestingly, two guys who show up very poorly on “success” are Darren McFadden and Adrian Peterson, guys I associate with breakaways and big plays. And this really gets to the PR gap that BGE faces. You see, guys like McFadden put up the clips that make the Sunday evening highlights. And that goes a long way towards shaping public opinion. BGE, on the other hand, just chews out four and five yard gains. Mind you, he never fumbles and he is rarely stopped for minimal gains, two things that kill drives. But this isn’t the stuff that registers with the public.
It does, however, register with this scribe and as such, I have no problem claiming that BGE has had an “elite” season. Yeah, I know it might be a bit easier to run when your opponent is terrified of your QB. And Ellis does lose a few points when receiving is factored as he plays little role in New England’s passing game. But the rushing results speak for themselves and if we weren’t applying big adjustments to guys like Emmitt Smith and Thurman Thomas for the tailwinds they enjoyed, why should BGE be singled out for attention?
The answer is he shouldn’t be. The guy might not be flashy. And he might not have a derby pedigree. But he can chew out tough yards, he protects the ball and he gives the Pats some versatility they haven’t had since 2004. All told, BGE is one law firm I want working for me.