On July 4, former NFL cornerback Asante Samuel got the Twitter-sphere and Redskins nation fired up when he sent out a tweet questioning what was so special about former Washington defensive back Darrell Green, who is a Hall-of-Famer.
Though Tony Dungy and others chimed in to show Samuel what he was missing, the 11-year veteran couldn't quite grasp why his statement was so surprising. Samuel's argument was based on the fact that in a career that spanned two decades, Green "only" had 54 interceptions to show for it.
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For former Redskins defensive back Fred Smoot, Samuel's claim that the numbers dictated who Green was as a player is just wrong. Smoot, who played two seasons alongside Green, believes Samuel was a victim of not understanding how football has changed over the years.
In modern times, a pass-heavy league not only makes interceptions more common but makes the stat a way to grade defensive backs. When Green dominated the field, the league didn't play out the same way.
“First of all, Darrell played in a league that ran the ball most of the time," Smoot said on NBC Sports Washington's Redskins Talk and Friends. "Second of all, he took on the number one receiver all the time. They never threw balls his way."
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Because the NFL wasn't as pass-heavy back in the 80s and 90s, Green didn't have a wild number of interceptions to show for his success. But, that didn't mean he wasn't making an impact and performing as one of the best at the position. As Smoot explains, Green would excel in numerous categories that sometimes don't show up on paper.
“Darrell did more than just intercept the ball, he shut down one side of the field, actually return a lot of punts, scored a lot on defense. And he tackles well, all-around defensive back," Smoot said.
Another stellar trait of Green's was his speed. Though there are no official measures of his 40-yard times back when he played, there are reports that it hovered in the 4.1-area, giving him a reputation as one of the fastest players in football. Even at age 50, he casually ran a 4.43. That speed was valuable on the field, as he could stick with any receiver and chase down players from behind.
Smoot saw the speed first-hand, even when Green was getting toward the end of his career at the age of 41. He recalled racing Green during practice, and even though Smoot was nearly 20 years younger, he couldn't keep up.
“I raced that old man and lost to that old man," Smoot said. "Right then I was about to retire from football. I was about to throw my cleats away.”
Green may not have averaged a large interception total, but that stat is only a small part of his NFL career. As Smoot showed, there was so much more brilliance to him as a player. That's why, to Smoot, Green's name always comes up when discussing the best at the position.
“You want to talk about one of the best cornerbacks of all time? That’s how the list starts out. Deon Sanders, Darrell Green, so and so," Smoot said. "Darrell will always be, how should I say, cornerback royalty.”
Green also has a bust in Canton to show for his work.
“I don’t have to say anything about Darrell Green, he’s a Hall-of-Famer for a reason," Smoot said.
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