T.J. Watt vs Myles Garrett: No real debate over the best EDGE in the NFL

T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Steelers fans get annoyed that Myles Garrett is constantly stealing T.J. Watt’s thunder. Here’s why the battle for the best edge defender is no longer a debate.

We can’t seem to go more than a few months at a time before the T.J. Watt-Myles Garrett debate is brought back up. This was a big topic late in the 2021 season and after Watt had earned the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Since then, there haven’t been a lot of rumblings surrounding these two elite defenders. However, EA Sports was sure to change that. In mid-July, EA Sports started releasing their player ratings for the much-anticipated Madden 23 video game. While Garrett joined the “99 Club,” Watt was handed a 96 overall grade.

This didn’t sit well with Steelers fans, and the Watt vs Garrett debate circled back once more — with fans of both teams arguing on either side. I’m here to say that, over the past three years, this really isn’t much of a debate at all.

It doesn’t really matter which statistic or metric you want to use. Whether it’s raw numbers, pass-rush win rate, advanced statistics, Pro Football Focus grades, or game film assessment. Over the past three seasons from 2019 to 2021, the contest for the league’s top edge defender really hasn’t been close.

According to stats from ESPN, Pro Football Reference, and Pro Football Focus, Watt is annihilating Garrett in every single major statistical category over the past three seasons.

Browns fans will point to the fact that Garrett’s pass-rush win rate was slightly higher last season (which it was). However, Watt dealt with a hip, knee, and groin issue in 2021, and since 2019, Watt still has a better average pass-rush win rate than his biggest rival.

T.J. Watt will continue to trounce Garrett

I’ll be the first to admit that T.J. Watt isn’t better at every single thing than Myles Garrett — even if the numbers make it look that way. There are some other advanced metrics that show that Garrett is double-teamed at a higher rate and that getting sacks against left tackles is more difficult in general.

However, you really have to stretch to make a case for Garrett being on par with Watt as an all-around football player. When it comes to play-making and the impact he makes for his respective defense, there really is no comparison.

Though the Steelers had a down year defensively in 2021 (as Watt was banged up for a good portion of the season), Pittsburgh did have a top-6 defense in four of the past five years, according to Team Rankings — thanks largely in part to Watt’s presence.

If the trend continues the way it has over the past three seasons, there’s really no reason we should expect this to change. Watt has been a game-wrecker who consistently bats down passes, tries to dislodge the football, and makes tackles behind the line of scrimmage more routinely than any player in the league.

Meanwhile, Garrett excels at getting pressure and sacking the quarterback, but he has never been a dominant run defender and his ability to get his hands on the football isn’t nearly as developed.

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At this point, it simply doesn’t matter how you slice it; the debate between T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett is essentially over. Both are great football players, but Watt is more consistent, has greater accolades, and the numbers to back up his impressive film. Let’s put this to rest until Garrett proves otherwise.