FRISCO, Texas — Micah Parsons knew the risk of the moment.
The Dallas Cowboys All-Pro linebacker understands the NFL’s buzzing climate, as the Philadelphia Eagles fan base embraces the etymology of the word “fanatic” as exuberantly as any other.
“I’m not trying not to make enemies,” Parsons told Buffalo Bills pass rusher Von Miller on Miller’s “Voncast” show this week. “I love the game so much that I can’t, when things go wrong, I can’t hold it back like I have to say something.”
So Parsons said it.
“If we look at the Eagles,” he wondered, “is it Hurts or the team?”
Translation: Does quarterback Jalen Hurts deserve MVP honors if his team, a paragon of talent and stability, depends less on his individual performance for success than a counterpart like Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs?
Bleacher Report aired a clip of the conversation on Tuesday, and the full interview was downloaded on Wednesday.
Thursday after practice, sweat still streaming down his face, Parsons addressed the feedback from the first question about his weekly availability to the media.
What does Philadelphia now think of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native?
“I’m sure they hate me,” Parsons said. But “I always will. I mean: you have to bear everything you say, just like a man.”
Parsons said he didn’t mean to say he was standing up to some fans and social media pundits interpretation of his conversation. Only those who believed she was criticizing Hurts’ performance misunderstood the intention of the conversation.
Hurts has thrown for 3,157 yards and 22 touchdowns this season, rushing for another 686 yards and 10 scores. No quarterback has played cleaner football than his 0.8% interception rate, his 32 total touchdowns behind only Mahomes. (Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow and Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen also accounted for 32 total touchdowns.)
“No pun or no disrespect to Hurts,” Parsons said. “I think she’s doing great this year. But you know me: I’m a defensive guy and I’ve said that the Eagles defense is the team to watch. They just had hell [defenders] doing shows all year round. From a defensive point of view, I know how offensive guys get all the credit.
“So I just wanted to stand up for the defensive guys.”
Parsons mentioned cornerbacks Darius Slay and CJ Gardner-Johnson, as well as Eagles offensive linemen Lane Johnson, Jordan Mailata and Jason Kelce, as Philadelphia players who impressed him on the 12-1 team.
“Why is quarterback the most valuable position when there are 22 jobs?” Parsons asked. “Now is the most difficult position? You can argue that’s probably the hardest position, that and the cornerback.
The quarterbacks have exclusively won the AP NFL Most Valuable Player award since 2013, with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers leading the pack with four such honors. The last defensive back to win the award was Giants outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1986. In the 36 seasons since then, the league MVP has recognized a quarterback 29 times (including split awards), and the other eight honorees were running backs.
Parsons is the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after a campaign featuring 13 sacks, three forced fumbles, 20 tackles for loss, and 84 tackles for loss. His versatility and athleticism continued to anchor the Cowboys defense this year, collecting 12 sacks in 13 games as well as three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown.
Parsons lined up primarily as a defensive end despite the Cowboys “officially” billing him as linebacker. He is currently the odds-on favorite for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, according to BetMGM.
Does that justify consideration of MVP? Parsons has never explicitly advocated his own recognition as much as the position of him and due respect from the ball.
“People forget that football is complementary,” Parsons said. “How well we do in defense helps Dak [Prescott]. If we keep the team to its 20[-yard line] and point, then [our returner] brings the ball back to 50, now Dak is already ahead. It is complementary football. Not everything is just QB or anything.
“It’s the defense, it’s the special teams, it’s the kids that don’t get the credit.”
Parsons acknowledged that his alleged lightness at Hurts has spawned a “shitstorm,” a risk even more notable when the Cowboys host their rival NFC East Eagles on Christmas Eve. At 10-3, Dallas would need help catching Philadelphia in the divisional contest. But the playoff-caliber matchup will be eye-opening for both teams.
Parsons said she doesn’t mind speaking her mind, believing “people should have opinions” and hers — as long as they’re respectful — are a sign of authenticity.
“Never once have I ever disrespected Hurts or any other player in any way,” Parsons said. “I’m just talking about football. If football is a painful conversation then what are we playing for? I think work is more painful than conversation, you know.
“[Others] talk shit all day. Why can’t we have a little small talk? I don’t understand what’s so painful when we talk about each other.