Kerry Rhodes, NY Jets, Jamal Adams, Twitter, Stats
Kerry Rhodes, Darrelle Revis, New York Jets, Getty Images

Former Jets star says he is the team’s best safety since 2003

Ah, nothing like a little Twitter sports-debate drama that emerges completely out of the blue.

At 11:50 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, former New York Jets safety Kerry Rhodes set Twitter ablaze as he randomly dropped a tweet that featured a bold claim within a mini-rant.

“It’s funny.. I’m the best safety to play for the [Jets] in the last let’s say 18 years,” Rhodes writes.

Rhodes goes on to explain that he feels his efforts as a Jet do not garner enough appreciation, writing, “[I] had 1 subpar season for my standards in [2009] and you’d think that I’d never played there or made an impact there. My subpar season was definitely subpar and a whole new system.”

Later, Rhodes would clarify that his complaints had to do with the organization itself, not the fanbase.

Rhodes was drafted by the Jets out of Louisville with the 123rd overall pick in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL draft. He would play five seasons with the team, appearing in 80 games and collecting 328 tackles, 15 interceptions, 48 passes defended, nine sacks, six forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries. Rhodes also appeared in four playoff games.

The Birmingham, Ala. native does have a strong argument to be the team’s best safety in the past 18 years. Here are some of his ranks among Jets safeties since 2003:

  • 420 tackles (1st)
  • 15 interceptions (1st)
  • 48 passes defended (1st)
  • 9.0 sacks (2nd)
  • 12 quarterback hits (2nd)
  • 23 tackles for loss (2nd)
  • 5 fumble recoveries (1st)
  • 6 fumbles forced (1st)

From a volume perspective, Rhodes is definitely correct. No Jets safety in the past two decades can touch his impact in a green-and-white uniform.

However, Rhodes has the advantage of playing 80 games for the franchise, which is 17 more than any other Jets safety since 2003 besides Eric Smith (who played 96 games).

If you look at things on a per-game basis, Jamal Adams is arguably the Jets’ best safety of the past 18 years – and maybe of all-time.

Pro Football Reference calculates a statistic called Approximate Value (AV) that takes numerous factors of a player’s performance into account to provide a one-number metric that estimates his overall impact.

Rhodes leads Jets safeties with 40 total AV since 2003, but Adams is right behind him with 31 total AV despite playing 34 fewer games as a Jet.

In terms of AV per game, here are the Jets’ leaders at safety since 2003 (counting only players who played multiple seasons with the team):

  1. Jamal Adams (0.674 – 10.8 per 16 games)
  2. Kerry Rhodes (0.500 – 8.0 per 16 games)
  3. Jim Leonhard (0.425 – 6.8 per 16 games)
  4. Marcus Maye (0.421 – 6.7 per 16 games)
  5. Marcus Gilchrist (0.414 – 6.6 per 16 games)

Adams takes the cake by a landslide when it comes to per-game production. Not only does he lead Jets safeties in AV per game since 2003, but he is the franchise’s all-time leader in AV per game at the safety position. Rhodes remains directly behind Adams in second place on the team’s all-time list.

Jets fans mustn’t forget how dominant Adams was in New York just because he left on ugly terms and has declined massively as a Seahawk. He had a great case to be the best safety in the league following the 2019 season, and many Jets fans were making that argument for him before he turned to the dark side.

While Adams’ Jets career was short, his two-year peak from 2018-19 was higher than anything the Jets have ever seen from a safety. He is the only safety in team history to make multiple Pro Bowls and the only one to be named a first-team All-Pro.

Adams is far behind Rhodes in the interception column, but he has significant per-game edges in sacks, quarterback hits, tackles for loss, fumbles recovered, and fumbles forced.

The pair is also close in passes defended per game (Rhodes 0.60, Adams 0.54) despite Rhodes being a free safety and Adams being a strong safety.

With all of that being said, there is no easy answer to this debate. Rhodes was an elite safety in his own right despite never getting proper recognition through a Pro Bowl. He was a second-team All-Pro in 2006. The Louisville Cardinal certainly offered ball-hawking skills, coverage range, and longevity that Adams did not.

Rhodes acknowledged Adams’ presence in this debate when replying to a fan, stating “he’s not a play maker like me. Period.”

Adams and Rhodes were both elite safeties for the Jets. They each have arguments to be the team’s best safety in the past two decades and possibly in franchise history.

Who do you think was the better Jets safety – Rhodes or Adams?

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at] - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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2 years ago

I’d say Jamal Adams is the best safety the Jets have had in this century. I say that because Adams went to 2 Pro Bowls and was a first team All Pro selection in 3 years with the Jets. Rhodes never got either of those accolades. Be reminded that Adams is a strong safety while Rhodes was a free safety. Larry Rhodes is definitely a top 5 Jets safety all time and tied for second with Marcus Maye since 2000.