With a spot in the second round of the playoffs officially secured thanks to a 41-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks, fans of the San Francisco 49ers sat patiently to see which team would be their Week 20 opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, SF rivals from the 1990s, or local product Tom Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Though the former would ultimately win out on Monday Night Football to secure the honor, none other than Skip Bayless, the controversial sports commentator, didn’t wait for the matchup to become official before firing off a tweet declaring that the team he came up covering in the Lonestar State had the better ‘back of the two.
“As great as Christian McCaffery has been, I’ll still take Tony Pollard,” Bayless wrote. “Just a little more explosive.”
Written on Monday night during a football game that saw Brett Maher miss four-straight extra points attempts, it’s understandable why Bayless would feel especially excited about Dallas’ Pro Bowl back, as he ran the ball 15 times for 77 yards and caught three of the balls thrown his way for 12 more yards in the win over Tampa Bay. Still, without the benefit of in-game excitement, it’s hard to really say that Pollard is a more prolific NFL performer than McCaffrey, let alone something as unquantifiable as explosivity, as the stats tell a different story.
Christian McCaffrey’s Pass-Catching Played the Difference in 2023
Despite having to take a one-way cross-country flight in the middle of the season with a fresh playbook in his hands, it’s hard to call McCaffrey’s 2022 season anything but a success.
Playing under three different head coaches, Matt Rhule, Steve Wilks, and Kyle Shanahan, McCaffrey finished out the year with 1,139 rushing yards and 741 receiving yards, good for the second and third-highest marks of his professional career, respectively. McCaffrey effortlessly transitioned from one system to another, from one quarterback to another, and in the end, he earned a Pro Football Focus offensive grade of 89.3 for his efforts, the fourth-highest mark of any qualifying running back.
One of those three quarterbacks who earned a higher PFF rating, however, was Pollard, who earned an offensive rating of 90.3 for his first 1,000-yard rushing season. Still, despite turning in an exemplary effort in his first full season as the Cowboys’ RB1, that doesn’t mean he played as big of a role in Dallas’ offense as McCaffrey played for Carolina and San Francisco.
Though Pollard did average more yards-per-carry than McCaffrey on 51 fewer rushing attempts in 2022, making their individual efficiency as rushers very much debatable, one area that really separates the Stanford product from his counterpart in Dallas is his pass-catching ability. Despite being one of Dallas’ top offensive weapons, Pollard was only targeted 55 times as a receiver and finished out the regular season with 39 catches for 371 yards and three touchdowns, hurdles McCaffrey eclipsed just during his time with the Niners.
If Pollard is eventually going to eclipse McCaffrey as the best all-purpose back in the business, pass-catching is the next aspect of his game that needs to be elevated.
Skip Bayless Gave Another San Francisco 49ers Player a Hard Time
After declaring that Dak Prescott will outplay Purdy in Week 20 earlier in the week, Bayless took things a step further on Wednesday when he made a bold declaration about San Francisco and their quarterback.
“At this moment, the 49ers look like the NFC’s best team. But man, does Brock Purdy take some wild chances,” Bayless wrote. “He’s the opposite of a game manager.”
Are the 49ers the best team in the NFC? That’s debatable, but calling Purdy a gunslinger who takes wild chances instead of just managing the game? Considering he’s only thrown two picks as a starter on 154 total passing attempts, it’s safe to say if Purdy is a gunslinger, he picks his spots pretty well, as his 11th-ranked offensive rating of 78.0 from Pro Football Focus clearly backs up.