From the moment T.J. Watt opted against showing up at Thursday night’s NFL Honors show, the outcome of the award was obvious. Watt wouldn’t join older brother J.J. as the handful of players to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards. Instead, it went to the Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett, who had better advanced metrics but worse conventional stats.
After taking some time to react, J.J. Watt shared his thoughts on the outcome. Tweeting Friday afternoon, Watt said he didn’t know what more T.J. could’ve done to win the award but credited Garrett for being a great player.
“The problem is I have no interest in tearing down MG,” Watt tweeted, referring to Garrett. “Myles is a phenomenal player, I’m a big fan and he’s had an incredible career so far.”
His tweet also included a graphic comparing T.J. Watt and Garrett’s production, the former having the edge in total and per-snap in nearly every category.
“I can acknowledge that while also wondering what more TJ could have possibly done,” Watt concluded.
It was a close vote for first place, closer than my own prediction indicated. Garrett received just four more first-place votes and 25 more total points than Watt, making it a tight battle at the top. It was the slimmest margin of first-place voters between the winner and runner up since 2016 when DE Khalil Mack nudged out DE Von Miller by one first-place vote, 18 to 17.
J.J. Watt repeatedly defended his brother throughout the 2023 season and has pushed back on the heavy shift to analytics. Garrett had a higher pass-rush win rate, a measure that indicates how often a player beats his blocker, even if the play doesn’t result in a pressure or sack. Watt believes the football world has gotten “bored” with T.J. Watt’s yearly domination. He’s led the NFL in sacks three of the last four seasons. The only exception came in 2022 when he missed seven full games after suffering a Week One partially torn pectoral muscle.
“I encourage people to not forget, it’s like I said earlier with Pat Mahomes, don’t get bored with greatness,” J.J. said in November during an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show. “Don’t get bored watching somebody do something spectacular, doing something that’s incredible.”
Garrett has never led the NFL in sacks and his 14 takedowns in 2023 were two less than what he recorded in 2021 and 2022. By midseason, it felt like the voters had concluded that Garrett would win, his first DPOY trophy, and little would change their mind.
In all, a classy response from Watt, who gave Garrett his due but also expressed his frustration over T.J. Watt finishing as this year’s runner-up.