For a lot of football fans from my general age group, which I guess is to say people between the ages of about 26 – 33ish (?), one of the most beloved positions is that of the oversized Safety. As much as skill position players were revered growing up, men that could perform feats of athleticism on the football field that simply didn’t seem possible, there were also muscle-laden sentries patrolling the back end of a defense who were just as celebrated. They were there for the sole purpose of instilling the fear of death in those athletic touchdown seekers. There was John Lynch and Roy Williams. There was Brian Dawkins and Adrian Wilson. They were taller than other DBs. They were stronger than other DBs. They were there to hurt you.
A quick side note: This breed of safety is not to be confused with the new smaller LBs, often referred to as S/LB hyrbids, such as Deone Buccanon. Those guys are incredible but are just historically smaller Linebackers fitted into that position to adjust for the way athletic Tight Ends are used today, among other reasons.
Which brings us to Landon Collins, a player, as you can imagine, I have a great admiration for. He comes from that previous breed of SS. He is going to roam around in a zone, find you with the ball, and flick the hitstick upward as hard as humanly possible. He’s 6’0, about 220lbs, and doesn’t much care for the well-being of himself or others. It’s a delight.
There’s a caveat it seems though. When it comes to the business side of football, particularly who he’d want in his locker room, from an interpersonal angle, he’s a bit of a dumbass.
The Giants’, Geno Smith’s part-time team and Collins’ employer, have a Cornerback by the name of Eli Apple. He was drafted 10th overall, which is particularly high, last year out of Ohio State and proceeded to move to New York with his Mom, which may or may not be totally normal, to begin his successful NFL career. Not all went accordingly to plan. All of this season there were reports of Apple’s teammates resenting his attitude and effort. He seemed genuinely disliked and his play wasn’t exactly making up for his momma’s boy persona. Landon Collins, in his 3rd season and now a leader of not only the Giants but of the defense Apple also plays on, decided to publicly air out his grievances, saying that Apple needed to “grow up”. Although this isn’t something that someone like, I dunno, Bill Belichick, would want you to do, it’s a fairly boilerplate criticism. Things like this have been said before in the sports world and will be said again. One could have passed it off as Collins trying to use the media to motivate Apple.
Then Landon Collins doubled down. In late December, without naming Eli Apple but by singling him out by the power of deduction in naming other teammates, ole #21 straight up called Apple a “cancer” in an ESPN Radio interview. A “cancer”. The big “C”. Arguably the worst thing you could call a teammate. Being labelled a locker room cancer is a stink that sometimes never comes off a player. In my opinion it is the worst thing that can be on your athlete resume, on or off the field items included. However, Collins apologized to Apple. This was after a publicized meeting between him, the 2nd year corner, and DC Steve Spagnuolo. It seemed meaningful. It seemed they had turned a page. Collins even came out more recently and said he wants Eli Apple back his team, despite speculation that the Giants would cut the chord on the problem child. This is all great stuff. True Leadership from the receiver-seeking missile. Then, a plot twist.
Days after saying he wanted a guy he previously referred to as CANCER back on his team, Landon Collins, Professional Football Player, came out and said he wouldn’t want Bill Belichick as a coach. Collins said he’s too strict. He runs thing in a way that is not to Collins’ liking. That last part I get. As much as I love the jumbo sized Safeties of yore, they never did particularly care for things like “coverage” and “perfect tackling form”, things that Belichick has a soft spot in his heart, if not a hard on, for. The thing is, Bill Belichick is arguably the great coach of all time, and is definitely one of the most winning, and Eli Apple is an asshole who is bad at his job. Of Belichick, Collins actually said in that radio interview something along the lines of, and I’m paraphrasing, “ya it’s cool he wins and all, but…” That’s just plain problematic folks. When a leader of your D and someone that is often seen as very competitive makes a case to bring back the twerp he referred to as a 50/50 curable disease but doesn’t want this one guy to be his new coach because, even though he wins a fuckload, he’s a kinda strict, there is a huge issue in his thinking.
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinions. And when you are one of only a few, true Strong Safeties left in the NFL, I suppose you deserve the benefit of the doubt. If I were Landon Collins though, next time you take a clearly lesser parties side in an argument, don’t call them AIDS first. Bad look. Bad look indeed.