You say you want a premier pass-rusher and a shut-down corner. If Santa would bring you those two things for Christmas, you'd be happy, right? The problem is, where's Santa gonna find that cornerback you want? Do they even make such an item these days?
A sportswriter friend of mine was lecturing me in the Lambeau Field press box Sunday night about how the league's "major emphasis" on the chuck rule – and I believe it's a "major emphasis" on doing anything the league can to make it impossible for defensive backs to cover receivers – has literally legislated shut-down corners out of existence. Wow! I said. You're absolutely right.
I said, thanks, I'm gonna use that. You won't mind if I don't give you credit for it, do you? But he's a good guy and it's Christmas and I'm getting soft in my old age, so, I'll tell you that the author of this football wisdom is Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.
Thanks, Goose, I'll take it from here.
Shut-down corner? Name one. Do you think Baltimore is glad they spent the money they did to re-sign Chris McAlister? Do you think Denver is happy they made the trade for Champ Bailey?
It's not like those guys aren't great talents, players of true shut-down corner ability, because they are. It's just that the way the game is being officiated this year makes it impossible for a cornerback to excel in this league.
Look at the guys leading the league in interceptions. Most of them are safeties and linebackers.
Now look at the leading interceptors among cornerbacks. The majority of them wouldn't fall into the category of man-to-man, premier, shut-down types. There are no Rod Woodsons or Deion Sanders'. Why? Because the "major emphasis" on making sure Peyton Manning wins a Super Bowl has literally made it impossible to effectively cover receivers man to man. Hey, Woodson and Sanders – I know, he's still playing, kind of – wouldn't have been Woodson and Sanders if they had played at a time when the game was officiated with the pass-offense bias with which it is being officiated today.
Today's game is about zone pass-coverage. You don't put your corners on an island these days, and the bottom line is that if you're going to play zone all of the time, why do you need a premier corner?
You don't. The Patriots are playing a wide receiver at cornerback and he's got three interceptions. What does that tell you about the demands of the position?
It tells me the position has been downgraded in value and importance. It tells me there's no need to have to spend high picks on cornerbacks. All of a sudden, cornerbacks aren't of any more value than safeties.
Frankly, this is a good year to be weak at cornerback. That was thought to be the Steelers' weakest position, yet, Pittsburgh has the league's number four pass-defense and is tied for eighth in interceptions. Washington traded away Bailey, considered to be the game's premier shut-down corner, but the Redskins haven't suffered any ill effects. They're fifth in pass-defense and are tied with the Steelers in interceptions.
The Jaguars are perceived to have a need at cornerback and most media and fans consider that to be a position the team should make a priority in addressing during the offseason. Yeah, they have to address it, but should it be a priority? Should the Jaguars spend a lot of money in free agency to sign a corner who will be used as little more than an underneath zone defender? Hey, that's what cornerbacks have largely become this season.
Think again. Make that pass-rusher the priority and slide that need at cornerback down the list a little. You can find that guy in the later rounds.