Part of Rex Ryan’s charm, such as it is, is that he’s unfiltered.
But there’s a line — and not that fine a line — between giving unvarnished opinion and being crude.
Ryan took the latter tack on Friday morning.
On ESPN’s “Get Up,” Ryan and company were discussing the contract the Dallas Cowboys and receiver Amari Cooper agreed to last month, a five-year, $100 million pact that reportedly includes $60 million guaranteed.
Ryan agreed with fellow panelist Dan Orlovsky that he wouldn’t have paid Cooper that much.
“To me, this is biggest disappearing act in the National Football League,” Ryan said of Cooper. “He doesn’t show up on the road, he doesn’t show up — when the competition’s good, when he’s up against the top corners, that guy disappears.”
After joking that the last recent receiver who he remembered disappeared was Cooper when he was with the Oakland Raiders, Ryan went on to say that Cooper “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.”
Turd is a personal insult, completely uncalled for, and classless. In more than a few places, it would lead to blows.
Reporters who cover the Cowboys say Cooper is one of the good guys in the locker room, “one of the most thoughtful and respectful” players Dallas has had in years, and also played through injury last season.
As journalists, as columnists and commentators, there are a few abiding rules. One of the big ones is that you don’t make things personal, not in public. No, Ryan isn’t a trained journalist but he has a platform on the biggest sports television network in the country, and is a featured voice on its morning show.
Opinions, even outrageous ones with no basis in reality, are currency in sports talk media. It’s what the platform is built on. But name-calling a player, especially a player that has no history of off-field problems and is by all accounts a good teammate, is just ridiculous.
Add in that Cooper has been in the NFL for five seasons and made the Pro Bowl in four of them, including 2018 when he was dealt from Oakland to Dallas and had to learn a new offense on the fly, and is the most productive receiver of the 2015 draft class, and it underscores how unnecessary the insult was.
If Ryan wanted to make an argument, there is data to back up his larger point: while Cooper had an incredible 11-catch, 226-yard, one touchdown effort against the Packers in October and four total 100-yard games in 2019, he was also shutout in New England in November, covered by cornerback and eventual Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, and a one-catch-for-3-yards outing in a road loss to the Jets.
Over the final seven games of the regular season, when the Cowboys went 3-4 and ultimately missed out on the playoffs, he didn’t have any 100-yard games.
That’s how you make a point. Ryan was way out of line getting personal.
UPDATE (3:15 p.m. ET): Ryan’s comments caused quite a stir, and not in a good way. Colleagues at ESPN like Damien Woody and Marcus Spears were both critical of Ryan’s word choice on Twitter, with Woody writing, “I’m all for offering up an opinion on a player’s performance/production but to personally attack that man was BS!” Spears said, “I have respect for [Ryan] but...I’m not with him calling another man out of his name. It shouldn’t happen ever.”
Whether it was the reaction from co-workers, the reaction on social media or a combination of both, Ryan appeared on “SportsCenter” later Friday to apologize.
“First off, I can’t believe I said that, used that word,” Ryan said. “Obviously it was a poor choice by me to say what I said about Amari. 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.”
This hour on SportsCenter: Rex Ryan clarified his comments from earlier today on ESPN about Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper, apologizing for his word choice. pic.twitter.com/4nwfJuKa9H
— bill hofheimer (@bhofheimer_espn) April 3, 2020
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