I love defense. I have a deep appreciation for the chess match that is defenses trying to slow down NFL offenses. One position in particular that I think is a little under-appreciated is cornerback. I personally think corner is the toughest position to play in football. They can’t breathe on a receiver without being called for interference, and if the rest of the defense is lacking in areas they can get stuck having to cover receivers for six seconds or more. Having a shutdown corner is almost essential to fielding an overall successful defense. Guys that can take whole sides of the field and a premier receiver out the game really enables a defense to operate with options. There’s only a handful of these fellas in the league today: Darrelle Revis, Nnamdi Asomugha, Joe Haden, and Jonathan Joseph immediately come to mind.
But in league history, no corners were better than Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson. I grew up watching the Steelers and Woodson, and I have to say he could possibly be my favorite player ever. Who can forget “Primetime”, Deion Sanders? His exciting kick returns and trademark high-step when taking a pick to the house are forever etched into the minds of NFL fans. Due to my Pittsburgh fan-dom, I have always implored that Woodson was indeed the better of the two, but I’m not sure if that is true. The more I thought about it, the more I liked this matchup. Without further ado, let’s break this one down and find who the greatest corner in NFL history is:
This one is a little tricky. Woodson played three more seasons than Sanders, and each guy actually garnered a starting spot at a different time than the other. In terms of fairness, I decided to analyze each guy’s best statistical season as well as averaging out the important statistical categories.
Best Statistical Season: 1993, Pittsburgh Steelers
Interception: 8 Tackles: 95 Forced Fumbles: 2 Total Touchdowns: 2
17 Year Career Season Averages
Interceptions: 4.2 Tackles: 61.8 Forced Fumbles: 1.2 Total Touchdowns: 1
Best Statistical Season: 1994, San Francisco 49ers
Interceptions: 6 Tackles: 34 Fumble Recoveries: 1 Total Touchdowns: 3
14 Year Career Season Averages
Interceptions: 3.8 Tackles: 35.1 Forced Fumbles: 0.71 Total Touchdowns: 1.4
Just as I initially thought, stats would point to Woodson to being the overall better of the two, especially when you look at the tackling. He was definitely a more complete corner, however Sanders holds a significant edge in big play making ability. He was the better kick returner, and his big edge in total touchdowns reflects that. But, this debate is not who the better kick returner was, it is who the better cornerback was. Both players journeyed around the league to various teams as their careers came to an end, and the amazing thing is that both guys played at a very high level well past their primes.