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NY Jets: Asante Samuel isn’t just wrong, he’s hurting the game

NY Jets, Sauce Gardner, Asante Samuel, Twitter
Sauce Gardner, Asante Samuel, New York Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic, Sauce Gardner, Asante Samuel, New York Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

Asante Samuel’s baseless, emotional comments are making NFL discourse worse for everyone

If you’re one of the lucky people who have managed to avoid making Twitter a part of your life every day, you’ve probably missed out on the keyboard warfare between 23-year-old two-time first-team All-Pro Sauce Gardner and 43-year-old one-time first-team All-Pro Asante Samuel.

Samuel, a former 11-year NFL cornerback, continues to blurt emotionally charged and logically flawed criticisms of the young superstar, mostly built around the fact that Gardner did not have any interceptions this season. Gardner has decided against ignoring Samuel and continues to fight back with an army of Jets fans on his side.

First off, let’s quickly unpack and disprove a ridiculous tweet that Samuel posted earlier today. For a former NFL player (a successful one at that), it’s shocking how off-the-mark some of his takes are. Samuel comes off as bitter and flat-out uninformed in the majority of his tweets.

After beefing with Gardner throughout most of Friday, Samuel (who, remember, is 43 years old) woke up on Saturday morning and decided to post this tweet.

To aid his anti-Gardner crusade, Samuel has chosen to back Houston’s Derek Stingley as the player he believes should have made the All-Pro team over Gardner, likely because Stingley has the interception numbers on his side (complementing Samuel’s narrative). Samuel also probably felt like he needed to get a fanbase on his side to combat the Jets fans who were dunking on him under every tweet he posted.

While the stats in the above tweet are true (based on Pro Football Reference’s coverage data), this is Grade A cherrypicking. Samuel conveniently decides to ignore Gardner’s enormous advantage in the yardage department.

Sure, Stingley has allowed a lower completion percentage than Gardner by about 8.5%, but that margin hardly matters when you consider the vast difference in how much yardage each player allows per completion. Per Pro Football Focus, Stingley has allowed 17.2 yards per reception this season, the second-highest among 119 qualified cornerbacks (min. 30 targets). Gardner has allowed 8.7 yards per reception, ranking seventh-lowest.

Completion percentage and yards per target can be blended to form yards per target, which is a good metric for understanding the level of production a defender tends to yield when he is challenged. In that department, Gardner has allowed 4.9 yards per target, ranking fourth-best, while Stingley has allowed 9.3 yards per target, ranking 105th.

So, while you can give Stingley the edge in interceptions, Gardner surpasses him quite significantly when we’re talking about how much production they give up.

Gardner’s excellence is hard to see for box-score scouts like Samuel who do not know how to evaluate players beyond Googling “how many interceptions does this player have”, but advanced metrics make it clear how dominant he is – and how far ahead he is of Stingley. Look at Sauce’s positioning on this chart via PFF, which displays separation prevented and target rate.

To be clear, I think Stingley is a great player despite his lackluster numbers in the yardage department. He did some impressive things this year. His positioning on the above chart is excellent in its own right even if Gardner is ahead. On top of that, Stingley snagged five interceptions in 11 games, committed only one penalty, and had three shutout games where he allowed zero catches.

And while Stingley allowed plenty of yardage on a per-target basis, he did do a tremendous job of preventing targets, as he ranked fourth-best among 119 qualified cornerbacks with 9.9 coverage snaps per reception (Gardner was first at 10.8).

You also saw Stingley’s impact on the Texans’ defense based on their performance when he did and did not play. In the six games Stingley missed, Houston allowed a 93.9 passer rating and 253.7 passing yards per game, while in the 11 games he played, they allowed an 87.7 passer rating and 223.4 passing yards per game.

Through two seasons, the former No. 3 overall pick has allowed three touchdowns, six interceptions, and a 72.9 passer rating while committing only three penalties. Stingley is a talented young player and will join Gardner as one of the faces of the cornerback position throughout the 2020s.

You see what I did there? I made my argument as to why I think Gardner was better while also acknowledging that Stingley is a great player too. Who knew you could do that?

This is something that Samuel does not understand how to do, and that is why his comments are more than just boneheaded – they’re harmful to the general NFL discourse.

In a social media era where seemingly everyone is desperate to get the dopamine rush of seeing numbers rise next to a little heart icon, people are far more eager to criticize someone than to praise them, as negativity is the best way to command attention. Samuel (who I must reiterate is a 43-year-old man beefing with a 23-year-old) encapsulates this more than any former NFL player I have ever seen on social media. The number of tweets he has made about Gardner and the Jets in the past 24 hours is utterly baffling, and frankly, embarrassing.

We’re not even close to done.

And that’s not even half of them. You can go to his page and cringe your way through the rest of them if you want, but I just wanted to put enough to get the point across.


Why can’t we just have fair, civil, informative discourse about the NFL? Is it that hard to make your arguments without coming off as petty and toxic?

Average football fans are always going to argue this way as long as the internet exists. We cannot change that. But when you have former players egging it on, it makes discussing football on the internet less enjoyable for everyone.

Instead of just talking ball and exchanging solid, well-thought-out points, everyone is throwing insults around while cherrypicking box-score stats and accolades. Nobody is getting smarter from this. Nobody is having a good time. What’s the point?

As a former player in the league, you should be able to provide a unique, well-informed perspective on the game. Instead, Samuel’s takes are just as emotional, ill-informed, and baseless as your typical WFAN caller who had a few too many brews and is stuck in traffic on I-95 after a 30-7 Jets loss.

In the midst of his ranting, Samuel claims he is just “mad Derek Stingley didn’t get the recognition he deserves.”

Ok, so why don’t you just shout out Stingley and give him props without simultaneously trying to tear down Gardner? Would it kill you to tweet “I think Sauce is a stud and well-deserving, but I also think Derek had a strong argument for All-Pro”?

Samuel’s rant is also unfair to both Gardner and Stingley. I’m sure the two draft classmates and young stars have the utmost respect for one another, but now, Samuel has pegged them as enemies in the national conversation. Jets fans will be itching to clip and post any mistake Stingley makes in this afternoon’s playoff game, tagging Samuel in the process. Texans fans will always be eager to call out any mistake Gardner mistakes. And if Gardner tries to defend himself, it comes off as if he is putting Stingley down.

Like J. Cole said, “They act like two legends cannot coexist.”

It is extremely unfortunate that Samuel – a former star whose name carries respect in the world of cornerbacks – has decided to inject toxicity into the conversation around his position instead of trying to raise up the younger generation.

If Samuel wants to argue that he thinks interceptions are essential for a cornerback to be considered a star (which is a flawed argument, especially in regards to Sauce, but that’s another conversation), there are better ways for him to do it than to rant on social media and pit two young stars against each other. He also would need to bring stronger arguments to the table than the ones he has. It’s wild how little he understands the stats that are meant to evaluate the position he played for more than a decade.

Another issue with Samuel’s behavior is the effect it has on the credibility of former NFL players in general. Because of the elementary level of insight Samuel is displaying, it becomes more difficult for fans to trust a former player’s opinion before they prove they can discuss the game in a civil manner with strong arguments. Samuel played 11 years in the league and was highly successful, but you would never know it based on the way he discusses the game on Twitter.

There are so many awesome former players out there who show that you don’t have to talk about football this way. Look at former Jets wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, for example. Quincy is active on social media and will not hesitate to argue his points or make criticisms, but he always does it in an extremely respectful and calm manner with analysis and arguments that are intelligent and nuanced.

Shoutout to Quincy, he’s one of the best out there at what he does.

I could have joined in with Gardner and Jets fans in attacking Samuel on social media, but I figured it would be better to nearly sort all my thoughts into an article. As a matter of fact, earlier today, I actually did post some anti-Samuel dunks on Twitter that made me feel good for a couple of seconds, but I deleted them shortly thereafter, as I realized that I’m a grown adult who has better things to do than to refresh Twitter hoping people agree with my takes. Hopefully Samuel will grasp that concept soon.

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4 months ago

This closely reminds me of the Richard Sherman /Derelle Revis spat where both were on top of their games but Sherman had more interceptions than Revis and let him know. Sauce is the Jacob degrom of the NFL. Where degrom won a Cy Young with 10 wins and Sauce All Pro with zero int’s.

4 months ago

I always felt the “it’s a guy who played so he knows” or “it carries more weight” is hogwash. My experience is no group of opinions is tainted more than players. They run in cliques, love their buddies, and have ZERO ability to be impartial. Like those “top 100” lists “voted by players.” Always, a popularity contest, rarely a fair evaluation. This is just another example, he’s got an ax to grind, or hates the Jets because he was a Patoilet, who knows.

Sauce should let this be…..