Rex Ryan might have (definitely) crossed a line — from professional criticism to personal distaste — in regard to Amari Cooper.
During his appearance on ESPN’s Get Up on Friday, the former New York Jets and Buffalo Bills head coach ripped the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, whom he labeled a “turd” undeserving of newfound wealth.
“[Amari Cooper] is the biggest disappearing act in the National Football League,” Ryan opened. “He doesn’t show up on the road, he doesn’t show up against when the competition is good. … When he’s up against the top corners, that guy disappears. Only one time I can remember in recent memory elite receivers and disappearing acts like Amari Cooper; that was the kid that the Raiders had — oh, that’s right, that was Amari Cooper! This is who he is. He doesn’t love football. He stops his routes.”
“I wouldn’t have paid this turd. No way in hell would I have paid this guy,” Ryan emphasized. “To me, you pay Dak Prescott. Forget all those numbers. They’re number one in the league [in total yards per game] because of Dak Prescott, not because of [Cooper]. It’s a deep draft at receiver. They made a huge mistake.”
Cooper signed a five-year, $100 million extension with Dallas at the onset of free agency. Now making $20 million annually, he became the second-highest-paid WR in the league behind Atlanta’s Julio Jones.
Calling him overpaid is one thing; picking apart his game is another. But this was an unwarranted attack on Cooper’s character, a stunning declaration on live television that drew the ire of teammates, fans and media alike.
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Rex Walks Back the Amari Dragging
Predictably, after the video of his segment went viral, Ryan issued an extensive apology countering the instant and overwhelming backlash to his remarks, with The Worldwide Leader likely forcing his hand.
“I can’t believe I said that, used that word,” he said on SportsCenter, via Pro Football Talk. “Obviously it was a poor choice by me to say what I said about Amari. Anybody who knows me — look, quite honestly, I think the world of every player and have a great deal of respect for every single player in the National Football League, including Amari Cooper. With that being said, I think the Cowboys overspent for Amari Cooper. The reason for it is, I don’t doubt that this is an elite player. He has those traits. But an elite player to me shows up on the road, he shows up against great corners, and he shows up in crunch time, and those are three things that Amari Cooper has not done so far in his career. In fact, I think he’s won one playoff game as a player. And all of those things are how I feel about this young man as a receiver. But what I added at the end of that, I want to apologize to Amari again and hope he accepts my apology.”
Nothing justifies or excuses Ryan’s extremely poor choice of verbiage. But the masses can’t really expect anything less from a guy, long removed from the sport, with a tattoo of his wife in a Mark Sanchez jersey …
NFL Execs Pan Cooper’s Deal
Coincidentally (or not), Ryan’s comments came in the wake of pointed criticism from several anonymous NFL executives who panned Dallas’ decision to invest so heavily in Cooper.
“I’m always suspicious when I hear a guy like Cooper took less money than he could have got from another team when the dollars are at the top of the market,” an exec told The Athletic’s Mike Sando. “I’m not convinced the Redskins were willing to pay $20 million a year. Teams get bluffed in free agency. You have to be willing to say, ‘Here is what we are willing to do.’ Amari Cooper, $20 million? To me, it should be no more than $15 million with all the receivers in the draft and what the veteran receivers were getting in free agency.”
Called into question above are multiple reports which claimed Cooper turned down “significantly” more money from the NFC East-rival Washington Redskins, who supposedly submitted a proposal “in the $22 million-per-year range” that would have “put him right there with Julio (Jones)” as the sport’s highest-paid receiver.
Such windfalls are usually reserved for the elite who prove their worth game in and game out. Sando spoke to a different exec that places the Pro Bowl pass-catcher in a tier below, strongly intimating the Cowboys blew their money on an undeserving player.
“It comes back down to, how many guys are really difference makers? That is who you pay the top of the market to,” a different exec told Sando. “I’m sorry, Amari Cooper helps, but he does not tilt the field. He has not shown up consistently. You can say a lot of negative things about Antonio Brown, but he was a difference maker.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL