Besides, of course, "Ridiculous!" (1:14 mark). Seriously though, the debate has raged in Chicago since 2008 about what Devin Hester's capabilities as a wide receiver are, and what kind of impact it has on his abilities as a return man, and of course there is always the debate about his capabilities as a returner, kick vs. punt vs. offensive impact as a receiver, and we run in circles like someone trying to tackle Hester in a phone booth...
So let's get the base line statistics up front:
194 Receptions for 2,565 yards (13.2 YPC) and 13 Touchdowns with 33 of those 194 going 20+ yards (17%) and 8 going for over 40 yards (4%).
146 Kick Returns for 3,447 yards (23.6 YPR) for 5 TDs with 80 of those 146 going over 20 yards (55%).
206 Punt Returns for 2,654 yards (12.9 YPR) for 12 TDs with 46 going for over 20 yards (22%).
So in 6 years, Hester has brought Chicago 8,666 yards and 30 TDs with 79 non-kickoff plays going over 20 yards. Its an impact, but we all know you can't compare a "catch" with a "kick return" with a "punt return" straight up because the standards are different.
2006 and 2007 were clearly Hester's best as a return man - but came with limited wide out production.
2006 - 20 KR for 528 yards (26.4 YPR), 2 TDs and 47 PR for 600 yards (12.8 YPR) 3 TDs, 0 receiving stats ((5 TD season)) - Hester was the 5th best KR man and 2nd best PR man that season (20+ returns, ranked by YPR)
2007 - 43 KR for 934 yards (21.7 YPR), 2 TDs and 42 PR for 651 yards (15.1 YPR) 4 TDs, 20 catches for 299 yards(15 YPC) and 2 TDs ((8 TD season)) - but Hester was not a top 10, nor top 15 KR guy - though he was #2 in PRs again, and this year arguably #1 based on the 4 TDs vs. the 1 from the man ahead of him. His receiving stats weren't impressive in total or as a "YPC" 4th option.
In 2008 & 2009, we made Hester a "primary receiver" and his return abilities vanished.
2008 - 31 KR, 679 yards, (21.9 YPR), 0 TDs and 32 PR for 198 yards (6.2 YPR) and 0 TDs...Yikes! 51 Catches, 665 yards, (13 YPC), 3 TDs ((3 TD season)) - 63rd in receptions, 49th in yards, Tied for 61st in TDs...
2009 - 7 KR, 156 yards, (22.3 YPR), 0 TDs and 24 PR for 187 yards (7.8 YPR) and 0 TDs...Yikes again! 57 Catches, 757 yards, (13.3 YPC), 3 TDs ((3 TD season)) - Tied for 42nd in receptions, 46th in yards, T-68th in TDs...
2010 and 2011 got interesting to me though, very interesting.
12 KR, 427 yards, (35.6 YPR), 0 TDs, 33 PR, 564 yards (17.1 YPR), 3 TDs, 40 catches 475 yards (11.9 YPC), 4 TDs ((7 TD season)) - 2nd in the NFL as a PR, not a top 10 KR, and obviously not top as a receiver
33 KR, 723 yards, (21.9 YPR), 0 TDs, 28 PR, 454 yards (16.2 YPR), 2 TDs, 26 catches, 369 yards (14.2 YPC), 1 TDs ((3 TD season)) - 1st in the NFL as a PR, not a top 10 KR, and obviously not top as a receiver
Why so interesting? 2010 was just as good of a season for Hester as 2006 and 2007, the difference being some of his production came through the receiving game instead of the Kick Return game, though his Punt Return averages were CAREER HIGHS. 2010 was better than 2011 and the most significant difference was a few less catches and a LOT less Kick Returns.
I know that's a LOT of stats to digest, and you're probably fading fast but let me make my points real fast to close out...
- Devin Hester is the best PUNT RETURN man in NFL History. 4 of his 6 seasons at that position have been #1 or #2 in the league and he has 12 career punt returns for TDs.
- Devin Hester is NOT the best KICK RETURN man in NFL History. He was in 2007, but his 2010 stats were deceptive because of how few KRs he got. His production here simply does not match others at the position in YPR nor in TD production. He is damn good, but nothing like his PR skills which are record setting and astounding (or ridiculous, if you prefer). In fact, despite his lower stats in 2008 and 2009, our team was still top 5 in average kick returns.
- Devin Hester is NOT a #1 receiver. He got two years to prove it in 2008-2009, and it hurt his return skills and he never topped low #2 receiver stats as a starting #1 receiver.
- Devin Hester is NOT a bad/incompetent/incapable/etc. receiver. His 2008-2009 production was #2 worthy though he got #1 targets. His 2010 season was about #4 receiver material, and his 2007 & 2011 seasons were around #4-#5 receiver production.
What is Devin Hester? The best Punt Return man in NFL History. A good, but not elite (anymore) Kick Return man that we have proven we can replace production wise with others on our team. A successfully contributing 4th (maybe 3rd, but that would be it) receiver on our roster.
When do we get his best production? Full time Punt Returner, Part Time Receiver, Occasional Kick Returner.
What do you think? For once though, I will ask you to contain the "inner homer" and when you look at his Kick Return production, please realize he has been out-performed in most of his seasons there by other players on other teams and other players on our own team...which can't be said about his Punt Return skills.
Viewing Pleasure: Return it!