J.J. Watt and Tackles for Loss (career and season rankings)

Jason Pauley
3 min readDec 28, 2022

JJ Watt will end his career 2nd all time in Tackles for Loss behind Terrell Suggs. He is only 11 short of the record, but he has played 95 fewer games. Here are the top 10:

Note: TFL data only goes back to 1999, so I’m sure guys like Jack Youngblood, Len Ford, and Deacon Jones, etc would certainly take many of these spots if TFL data existed for them.

Top Ten career TFL (volume)

Most TFL per game in a career (Efficiency)

Looking at the difference in games played between Suggs and Watt, I prefer looking at this on a per-game basis. Per game, Watt stands alone at the top of the table with 1.28 TFLs per game over his career. The top ten is peppered with active players. Because this is an efficiency metric, I believe some of these active guys will drop from the top ten when they start to hit the back end of their careers.

Take Nick Bosa for instance. He’s 3rd all time with 1.12 per game after four seasons. At the same point in JJ Watt’s career, he was at 1.61. When his career finishes, Watt he will be 80% of that number. You can see Watt’s career arc for this stat at the end of the post. Expect top ten guys Nick Bosa, TJ Watt, Maxx Crosby, Joey Bosa, Myles Garret to end their career with lower TFL/Gm by the time their careers end.

Highest TFL per game in a season (Efficiency)

Here are all of the seasons with a TFL/Gm above 1.3 (there are 33 of them). JJ Watt holds the top three positions including an off-the-charts TFL/Gm of 2.44 when he had 39 TFL in 2012. 39 TFL is also the volume record obviously, and no one other than Watt has come within 10 of that number. That year, 2012, he also had 20.5 sacks and won his first of three DPOY awards. In one single game in 2012 against the Colts he had 6 TFL (and 3.0 sacks). The 6 TFL in a game is also a single game record tied with himself and four others

Here is Watt’s season by season TFL/Gm over his career:

His 1.00 (14 TFL in 14 games) this year is in the top 10…in his 12th season! Generally, a great number to look for is 1.00, which is always getting the player into the top 10 each year.

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Jason Pauley

Passionate about Analytics (Football, Sports, Marketing, Sales, Demographics)