Rex Ryan made headlines calling Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper a turd. Although he’s now apologized, his criticism of the wideout’s play stands.
Last month, the Dallas Cowboys opted to make Amari Cooper the second-highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL. This after Cooper posted his fourth Pro Bowl season in a stellar five-year NFL career so far. But he also faced his share of criticism.
After Dallas used the franchise tag to retain quarterback Dak Prescott last month, Cooper became a top target in free agency. The Cowboys quickly signed the talented 25-year old to a five-year, $100 million contract extension in mid-March. According to OverTheCap.com, Cooper’s $20 million yearly average is only eclipsed by Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones at $22 million per season.
In a trade, the Cowboys sent their 2019 first-round selection to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for Cooper’s services midway through the 2018 NFL regular season. His presence helped turn a team that had lost five of its first eight games into NFC East champions with an ending season record of 10-6.
Last season was a different story for Cooper and the Cowboys. Dallas ended the year 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Cooper struggled with both knee and foot injuries throughout the season. He still posted career-highs in receptions (79), receiving yards (1,189), average yards per catch (15.1), and receiving touchdowns (8). He was also elected to his second-straight Pro Bowl as a Cowboy.
Still, Cooper faced criticism while with the Raiders due to inconsistency. Even the player himself has gone on record to say that he didn’t think being in Oakland was a good fit. The criticism of Cooper’s play started to rise again last season in Dallas after he failed to record a single-reception in a high-profile 13-9 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 12.
And it continued after the Cowboys’ number one wide receiver posted a dismal four receptions for 24 yards off a team-high 12 targets in the Cowboys’ most important game of the season, a Week 16 battle against the Philadelphia Eagles for the divisional title. The biggest stink came after Cooper was on the sidelines during a critical fourth-and-8 play that sealed the victory for Philly.
Those kinds of lackluster performances fueled a harsh critique of Cooper’s new contract in Dallas by former New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan on ESPN’s Get Up show on Friday.
"“To me, this is the biggest disappearing act in the National Football League. [Cooper] doesn’t show up on the road. He doesn’t show up against when the competition’s good, against the top corners, that guy disappears … This is who he is. And Dan, he doesn’t love football? Hell with it. He stops his routes, he does all this. I wouldn’t have paid this turd. No way in hell.”"
Ryan would later apologize for calling Cooper a turd on ESPN’s SportsCenter, but still believes the Cowboys overspent for the four-time Pro Bowler citing the fact he’s only won a single playoff game in five years. He also doubled-down on his opinion that Amari doesn’t show up on the road, struggles against the league’s top cornerbacks, and disappears at crunch time.
Ryan’s criticism of Cooper was certainly harsh. But is there any truth in it? Last season, Cooper recorded 52 receptions for 869 yards and five touchdowns in eight games at AT&T Stadium. On the road, he posted a mere 27 receptions for 320 yards and three scores in eight away games. Those contests include the aforementioned struggles in Philadelphia and Foxborough.
As to whether the Cowboys overpaid for Cooper this offseason, according to ESPN’s Ed Werder, a source indicated that Cooper actually rejected a more lucrative offer from the Washington Redskins that would have put him on par with Julio Jones and his $22 million per year average. If true that means at least one NFL team was prepared to offer him more, despite his perceived shortcomings. And there were likely other potential suitors willing to do the same.
Undoubtedly, Amari Cooper has his flaws. Even the player himself admitted to not playing at his best at times last season. But anyone who remembers life before Cooper in Dallas back in 2018 doesn’t question that type of impact his presence can have on a season. And the fact he’s still only 25-years old and entering his prime makes him more than a worthy gamble.