Darius Slay, Stephon Gilmore among players defending Cowboys’ Amari Cooper after ‘turd’ insult

Rex Ryan isn’t having a great week. The mercurial former NFL head coach was recently asked about the Dallas Cowboys‘ decision to award Amari Cooper a five-year, $100 million contract in 2020, and he passionately attempted to explain why he disagreed with the move, but immediately found himself the recipient of massive blowback after also hurling a personal insult towards Cooper. Ryan was speaking with ESPN’s “Get Up” at the time, and he didn’t think twice before tearing into Cooper to a point where he crossed a rather obvious line.

“I wouldn’t have paid this guy,” Ryan said as he began to hammer home his point. “To me, this is the biggest disappearing act in the National Football League. He doesn’t show up on the road. … When he gets the top corners, that guy disappears. 

“It’s only one time that I can remember, in recent memory, on elite receivers and disappearing acts like Amari Cooper. That was the kid that the Raiders had a few years ago. Oh, that’s right. That was Amari Cooper. 

“This is who he is. He doesn’t love football. He stops his routes. He does all this.”

While many will argue for or against Ryan’s points in varying ways, what he said next went viral, and for all the wrong reasons.

“I wouldn’t have paid this turd. No way in hell. No way in hell would I have paid this guy. … They made a huge mistake right here.”

Fans from around the league (not simply ones loyal to the Cowboys) locked arms with top media personalities and impact NFL players to rally against Ryan’s insult and overall analysis of Cooper. One such player was Darius Slay, who joined the rival Philadelphia Eagles this offseason on a three-year, $50 million deal that will pit him against Cooper at least twice per season going forward. 

“Rex Ryan, you sleep!!” said Slay.

That wasn’t the only response from an All-Pro cornerback, however, with New England Patriots shutdown defensive back Stephon Gilmore also lobbying Rex to revisit his view on Cooper. 

Come on Rex,” Gilmore wrote on social media. “He [is] one of the toughest receivers in the league to cover. His release game is probably top-two.”

Few took a more pointed stance than Cooper’s own teammate — cornerback Chidobe Awuzie — who questioned Ryan’s decision to launch a full-on assault toward the wideout. 

“Old man probably never met Amari — yet attacking [his] character,” Awuzie said. “Those that know him know he’s a dawg.”

Cooper is coming off a season wherein he was awarded a fourth Pro Bowl nod after posting career-high numbers in receptions (79), receiving yards (1,189), yards per game (74.3), yards per target (10.0) and touchdowns (8). Despite nursing varying injuries, he logged 16 starts and his presence helped launch second-year talent Michael Gallup to his first 1,000-yard season as teams could not shade help to one side of the field or the other.

Ryan, 57, ultimately succumbed to calls for an apology, rejoining the aforementioned show to offer up one.

“I can’t believe I used that word,” Ryan said. “Obviously it was a poor choice by me to say what I said about Amari, and anybody that knows me — quite honestly I think the world of every player. I have a great deal of respect for every single player in the National Football League, including Amari Cooper.”

He then wasted no time getting back to his original point, while still attempting to soften it with a sorry.

“Now with that being said, I think the Cowboys overspent for Amari Cooper,” a re-ignited Ryan said. “The reason for it is — I don’t doubt this is an elite player. He has those traits, but an elite receiver to me shows up on the road. He shows up against great corners. And he shows up in crunch time. 

“Those are three things Amari Cooper has not done so far in his career. I think he’s won one playoff game as a player. All those things are how I feel about this young man as a receiver, but what I added at the end of that — I want to apologize to Amari and I hope he accepts my apology.”

Cooper has not issued a statement. 

The 25-year-old joined the Cowboys in October 2018 after the team gave up a 2019 first-round pick to the Raiders to acquire his services. Disheartened on the back end of his time in Oakland, Cooper surged in his first several games in Dallas, setting records and helping the team to a midseason turnaround that took them from being sub-.500 to making an appearance in the NFC Divisional Round. To get there, the Cowboys had to land a wild card victory over the Seattle Seahawks, and they just that with the help of a seven-catch, 107-yard performance by Cooper.

In a critical game against the Eagles in Week 13 of that same season that kept them playoff-viable, Cooper embalmed Philadelphia with 217 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 10 catches, nailing the coffin closed with a walk-off TD in overtime.

Contrarily, in his three and a half seasons with the Raiders, the team was able to muster only one playoff appearance despite him delivering two 1,000-yard seasons in his first three tries. He didn’t have much of a chance to do any postseason damage in the Bay Area, and his one appearance with the Raiders saw XFL signal-caller Connor Cook taking snaps as starting quarterback, not Derek Carr, which ended with Cook floundering to a 161-yard effort that included only one touchdown but three interceptions in a 27-14 loss at the hands of the Houston Texans.

Still, to be fair, there are also games the Cowboys would’ve liked to see more output from Cooper (who has battled through several injuries to remain available), which makes at least some of what Ryan said valid — but not to the degree and in the fashion in which he said it. 

Time will tell if this all serves as bulletin-board material for a quietly brooding Cooper. He didn’t reply verbally to Ryan’s tirade and/or subsequent apology, but there’s little doubt Cooper is working on answering with his production for the next five years — with a Cowboys team who remembers exactly what they were before he touched down at DFW International Airport in 2018.

Which is to say, not much.