One of the things that make the NFL great -- the weekly debates.
Before making a choice let’s take a look at the numbers:
Ware, 28, first-round pick 2005:
74 career sacks
405 total career tackles
24 career forced fumbles
20 career passes knocked down
2 career TDs (INT & Fumble return)
9.5 sacks this season
48 tackles this season
Cole, 28, fifth-round pick 2005:
56 career sacks
364 total career tackles
11 career forced fumbles
13 career passes knocked down
1 career TD (INT return)
9 sacks this season
52 tackles this season
Right off the bat it looks like Ware, who despite playing a different position has spent most his career coming from the outside of the defensive front like Cole, is superior across the board. But take into account that Ware, a first-rounder, started right from the get go and that Cole, a late-rounder, spent much of his rookie season putting in his dues as a part-time player and some of the career discrepancies don’t seem that far apart especially sacks and tackles.
But even taking into account the different roads to stardom, Ware easily wins forced fumbles, passes defended and post-season accolades.
With a game to win now -- like the Cowboys-Eagles Sunday Night Football showdown on NBC -- I would pick Ware without hesitation.
But look at this season alone and Cole might have finally caught up to Ware. The Eagles pass rusher trails the Boys rusher by just half a sack and Cole actually leads Ware in tackles.
This season Ware just hasn’t had the same impact he used to when he put up 20 sacks in 2008. Instead he is on pace for a more down-to-earth 12-sack season on par with last season when he had 11.
Cole on the other hand again seems on pace for another very respectable12.5 sack season -- just like he put up last season.
If I was picking based on career I would take Ware in a heartbeat but it’s fair to ask if the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Cole is better suited to stay elite while the leaner (6-foot-4, 247-pound) Ware is starting to show some wear -- get it?
Seriously though, I would take Cole moving forward despite having far less impressive career stats. He has proved that he continues to put up comparable stats while Ware looks like he peaked two seasons ago.
And to really look ahead, I think that one day these guys who arrived in the NFL in the same draft class (even if it they were picked on different days) could both arrive in Canton after racking up 100-plus career sacks.