If you are a casual NFL fan, you might be under the impression that Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks is the best cornerback in the league today. And after his compelling argument directed towards Erin Andrews’ microphone, it is easy to see why even the most knowledgeably football analysts are beginning to agree. One player though has made it clear that he does not. That man is Darrelle Revis, Pro Bowl cornerback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But could the man they call “Revis Island” be on to something?
While the “rivalry” between these two shutdown corners is not a new one (Sherman spent last Super Bowl asking fans on Bourbon Street who was better), it has seemingly been pushed to the wayside. Before Sherman was making NFC Championship clinching bat downs and writing well-spoken explanations of why he went on a verbal tirade on national television, he was hardly a household name. Those of us in NFL circles were quite familiar with the brash, yet intellectually advanced, dreadlock donning, superstar-to-be, playing in the Pacific Northwest. But to the rest of the world he was just another seemingly nameless player in the NFL.
Just a few years earlier, another cornerback had experienced a similar meteoric rise to gridiron fame. However unlike the somewhat self-promoted Sherman, Revis’ name became synonymous with Gilligan and Oceanic Flight 815 by way of his stellar play and the praises of his brazen head coach Rex Ryan and the New York Media.
It was 2009, while in his third season, that Revis began drawing comparisons to Hall of Fame corners like Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson. Fast forward a few contract disputes, a torn ACL, and an eventual trade to an underwhelming Tampa Bay team and football fans seem to have forgotten about the one time undisputed “best corner in the game.”
In a Fantasy Football era of fandom, it was easy for fans to recognize Adrian Peterson getting back to form less than a year removed from major knee surgery without ever watching a Minnesota Vikings game. Meanwhile, those who failed to watch Buccaneer games in 2013 (even some of their own fans are included here), don’t realize how great Revis was in his first season back on his reconstructed left knee.
The media though rarely forgets. And thus, Revis was asked, during the Pro Bowl festivities in Hawaii, his thoughts on Sherman’s post NFC Championship comments. His answer, via NFL.com, was simple.
“I feel like I’m the best.”
“(Sherman is) saying he’s the best,” Revis continued. “I’m saying I’m the best, Joe Haden thinks he’s the best. …You can go by numbers, you can go by the ball not being thrown to your side so many times, there are so many variables in it. But at the same time, we are all talented players.”
A humble response from a confident player. But if we do go by the numbers, is it even a question who is the best? According to Pro Football Focus, Revis was the best cornerback in football during the 2013 season. As for Sherman, he ranked fifth.
Sherman did top Revis in terms of interceptions, snagging eight compared to just two. However, when you factor in defense within the run game, and a myriad of other factors, Revis far surpassed the output of his rival. The most interesting part of this all may be a cumulative statistic from the five seasons prior to 2013 where Revis ranked clearly as the best cornerback in the NFL. In fact, he was twice as good as any other corner in the league while missing nearly all of 2012.
While Sherman is a young, hungry, and undeniably talented if we go simply by body of work he has yet to take the throne from his counterpart. Perhaps a strong performance against Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl will go a long way in helping his case. But looking ahead, it is hard to envision Revis not returning to an even better than 2013 version of himself under one of the best defensive football minds in Lovie Smith.
Sports fans love a good rivalry, and it is good to see one blossoming between two dynamic talents. However simple logic and film study tells you Revis may in fact be on to something.