Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comWarren Sapp seems to be taking a scorched earth policy to Super Bowl week. After publicly panning Michael Strahan, Sapp turned his scorn to another New York football player … Jets rookie Sheldon Richardson.
Per the NY Daily News:
“As soon as that kid gets off the ‘I think I was better and should have been drafted in a different position,’ maybe he’ll see his future,” Sapp told the Daily News. “Let’s not anoint this kid the next best thing since sliced bread yet.”
Sapp may not agree with Richardson’s tack, but the perceived draft-day snub (the Jets took him with the No. 13 pick) motivated the rookie.
“If something drives you, it drives you from inside, right?” Sapp said. “He’s externally saying it. The draft is not going to be re-drafted. So as soon as he wakes up from this nightmare that’s haunting him…. that’s the whole point when we talk about football players not carrying baggage. One play at a time. Let that go. He hasn’t let go of the draft. It was Week 15 and he was still talking about it. I was like, ‘Really?’”
Sapp is right about anointing anyone too soon. Even so, the now bankrupt Sapp himself has admitted that his own draft fall “scarred him for life” … but hey that’s not relevant because that doesn’t allow Sapp the cognitive (I use that term loosely with Sapp) dissonance to discount the young Richardson’s play — specifically his pass rush skills.
“What does he do well?” Sapp asked about Richardson.
Stuffing the run, he was told.
“Yeah. A run stuffer in a pass-first league,” Sapp mocked.
Sapp was an undoubted difference maker in the NFL, but 1995 was Warren Sapp’s first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he totaled three sacks, one forced fumble and an interception to go with 27 total tackles in sixteen games.
Eighteen years later, Richardson actually had had half a sack more than Sapp with 3.5 to go along with a forced fumble and 77 total tackles. Forgive me, but for as great a player as Sapp was over his career, Sapp doesn’t sound like someone in a position to slag a rookie based on their level overall impact.
The problem of course is Sapp knows better. While Sapp was allowed to shade the guard, pin his ears back and one-gap virtually every play for most of his career in the Tampa-2, the same can’t be said for Richardson.
The foundation of the Rex Ryan defense has and always will be stopping the run to set up long down and distances to get off the field; for Sheldon Richardson that entails both one and two-gapping at the line depending on the situation. Despite all these things, Richardson was still more productive as a rookie. QB pressures or double teams that don’t show up on the stat sheet (but do in the film room) to free up others are more as valuable than vanity stats like sacks. The Jets have always stressed third down percentages well before they fret over their sack totals.
Hell, Muhammad Wilkerson’s play against the pass was suspect as a rookie, how has that turned out? Behind JJ Watt, Wilkerson is widely regarded as the most complete 3-4 defensive end in the league. No one should be anointing Richardson yet, but they shouldn’t be discounting what improvements he can make in coming years either.
Sapp is nothing more than sour grapes.
Wilkerson, Coples, Harrison and Richardson are shaping up to be the engine for this defense over the next five years. We sure hope that there will come a time when the Hall will acknowledge some from that group, but to burn the rookie is childish.
Warren Sapp can put on a suit, can go to work for the likes of NFL Network but as his interactions this week are proving, he’s still just the pig in lipstick he’s always been.
We’re sure that there will be a rush now to shove a microphone in Sheldon Richardson’s face. Our hope is that, unlike Sapp, Richardson is mature enough to let the matter go.[/sny-editorial]