As he sat a front an assortment of reporters at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, Ohio State senior tight end Jeff Heuerman nonchalantly answered a hypothetical question with a hypothetical question of his own.
“How important is it for Braxton Miller to stay healthy?” a reporter inquired.
“How important is it for Cleveland to keep LeBron (James) healthy?” Heuerman retorted.
While the answer lead to laughs, little did Heuerman, or anyone else standing in that room at the Hilton Chicago, understand just how important that seemingly insignificant back-and-forth would become.
As the news of Miller’s torn labrum in his throwing shoulder spread through the Internet like wildfire a week ago, I couldn’t help but refer back to Heuerman’s words.
When he said that, he was trying to hide the truth of his words in the excitement regarding James’ return to Ohio and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It was almost as if Heuerman didn’t want to believe Miller could get injured and miss the season, just as many didn’t believe James would ever return home to Northeast Ohio.
As it turns out, both circumstances, one more desired than the other, have come to fruition, and my mind continually wandered back Heuerman’s statement.
Is there a way to tell if Heuerman was right? Is the loss of Miller like losing the best basketball player on the planet? Is it worse than losing the best basketball player on the planet for a season?
How is it even comparable? Football is football, basketball is basketball. A football team employs eleven players on each play. Basketball teams employ only five. Wouldn’t that simple fact, the lesser numbers on a basketball court, mean that their production, or lack thereof, is more highlighted than any production of a football player?
But eventually, I found there is a constant through which I could compare the impact of each Ohio-born athlete on their respective teams: numbers.
Be it baseball, basketball, football or soccer, numbers are the measure of success in any sport.
While baseball has been the proving ground for analytics in sports, with statisticians popping up in Major League Baseball’s front offices left and right, there’s no reason other sports can’t follow suit.
Without further ado, I pulled out the calculator … app on my iPhone and went to work.
The results are as follows.
In 2013, Miller accounted for 3,162 of the Buckeyes 7,167 total yards, good for about 44 percent of OSU’s offensive output. He also scored about 41 percent of OSU’s total touchdowns in 2013 as he accounted for 36 of OSU’s 87 six-pointers.
Almost half of OSU’s offense was the result of the Miller. The other half, essentially, was the result of former OSU running back Carlos Hyde, another Buckeye who won’t be suiting up for the Scarlet and Gray for the 2014 season.
In other words, it’s quickly apparent that Heuerman was statistically accurate in his statement that Miller meant a lot to the Buckeyes.
Heuerman’s assertion of Miller’s impact might have been correct, but would his other assertion, that losing Miller would be like the Cavaliers losing James, follow suit?
James’ former team, the Miami Heat, scored 8,380 total points last season, 2,089 of which belonged to James. Crunch the numbers and James accounted for about 25 percent of the Miami Heat’s offensive output.
The Heat also grabbed 3,024 rebounds as a collective unit in 2013, 533 of which were picked by James. Again, plug in the numbers and you’ll find that James grabbed roughly 18 percent of the Heat’s rebounds a year ago.
Finally, James dished out 488 of the 1,847 assists of the Miami Heat a year ago, good for 26 percent of Miami’s total dimes.
Overall, Miller accounted for about 44 percent of OSU’s offensive output, while James accounted for about 25 percent of his. Miller scored about 41 percent of OSU’s touchdowns, James grabbed 18 percent of his team’s boards and 26 percent of his team’s dishes.
Miller, in a statistical sense, meant a lot more to the Buckeyes than Heuerman estimated. Not even James, who many consider to be the best athlete on the planet, was more valuable to the Miami Heat than Miller was to the Scarlet and Gray.
Again, comparing basketball and football may be apples to oranges, but numbers are numbers, no matter the arena of origin.
With that all being said, I’ve seen a lot of tweets from OSU football fans in the days following Miller’s season-ending injury, most of which are centered around the Buckeyes being “OK” or “better” with redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett under center this season.
If that’s to be the case, as the numbers indicate, Barrett is going to need to transform himself from a backup quarterback without a significant snap at the collegiate level into a more productive player than James.