An important trait in friendship is honesty. A good friend tells the truth. It shouldn’t be done in a mean-spirited way, but when people’s friends are honest with them it allows for better decision-making and even self-improvement.
That doesn’t apply when you talk about me with people we don’t know.
To others, I am to be described as the best person they will ever meet. I’m generous, I’m a genius, and I’m fully capable of kicking their ass. I don’t have to be the topic of the entire conversation, but if I’m asked about the review better be glowing.
Micah Parsons is on his way to both the Pro Football and Homeboy Hall of Fame. He was outstanding as a rookie for the Dallas Cowboys in 2021, dominating both as an inside linebacker and a pass rusher. As great as he played—he recorded 13 sacks—it still might be a stretch to say he had the best season of any defensive player in the league last season, but there would be no fault in him saying that. Borderline irrational self-confidence is part of what allows football players to get into high-speed collisions on foot at least 17 times per season.
However, the 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year and first-team All-Pro Parsons would bestow the honor upon Trevon Diggs — also a first-team All-Pro performer.
“Without a doubt, I thought he was the best defensive player in the league last year,” Parsons said to USA Today’s Jori Epstein. “We’ve seen 20 sacks before. But in this era, we’ve never seen anyone reach 10-plus interceptions. So it’s disrespectful to me, because I think he deserves all the credit in the world and deserves to be named a top-five corner if not the best corner in the league.”
Yes, Diggs was an intercept machine last season. At times it looked more like he was returning punts than playing in pass coverage. He intercepted the ball 11 times in 2021. No player has totaled that many since 1981. Turnovers are game-changers in football, unlike any other sport. Give the opposing team one extra possession, and that can be the difference in the game and the season.
As important as turnovers are, what’s more important is being consistently stout from play to play, game to game. While interceptions aren’t nearly as random as fumble recoveries, the defense’s ability to cause turnovers is largely a function of luck — just ask the 2002 Chicago Bears. Coaches may be heard on Inside the NFL screaming at their defense, “We need a turnover,” but that’s not anywhere near as feasible as, “We need this stop on fourth down.”
As a defensive back, what players are supposed to be most conscious about is not getting beat deep, and at times Diggs got clobbered. He gave up an average of 18.2 yards per completion, with only 40 percent of those yards coming after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus. He also led all corners in penalties and was a liability in run defense. His performance is why so many counting stats, especially defensive stats, are not valued the way they used to be.
So what if Darrelle Revis or Deion Sanders never recorded 11 interceptions in a season. Teams structured their entire gameplans to keep quarterbacks from passing anywhere in their general direction. Even if Aaron Donald doesn’t get the sack, the pressure he puts on a quarterback can throw off the timing of a play.
It’s not about sacks and turnovers, while those are both very nice to have. However, what’s more predictable is how well players handle their assignments, and how an opposing offense attacks those players. For everything that Diggs did well in his second season, no one shied away from targeting him. He was the third-most targeted corner in the NFL, by PFF.
But it’s not a friend’s job to read PFF articles, and rankings, and go into deep analysis about another friend. A friend’s job is to defend other friends even if the argument is flawed. Parsons went to bat for Diggs, and that’s the kind of person anyone would want to share a huddle with.