We’ve been shouting week after week about how great out rookies are, in particular, those on the defense. Of that group, we often reference Marshon Lattimore, Trey Hendrickson, and Free Safety Marcus Williams. Last night, Marcus Williams went from being a hero in the Saints divisional playoff game to a polarizing figured. Down 17-7 he made an outstanding, leaping interception to put the Saints in position to score six plays later. Unfortunately, after taking the lead 24-23, Williams whiffed a tackle on a last-ditch effort by the Vikings which led to a 61-yard walk-off touchdown.
The next second, Williams received hateful messages, death threats, calls to be cut and even calls to end his own life via social media. The monstrosity of fanaticism is that it can be equal parts rewarding and caustic. Meanwhile, as seen on the ASC Twitter page, many came out in support of the rising star, not allowing a fluke play to redefine what was a fantastic rookie season for the Utah product.
Now let me not be unrealistic. I’m an educator and I work in high-stress situations in the entertainment industry for a living. While those will never compare to the pressure one feels as a player on the gridiron, I can speak to rebounding from what feels like a world-ending mistake. I often tell those I work with that it’s never about what you do wrong, it’s about what you do next. In Marcus’s case though, “next” won’t come around until near the end of this year. I also teach that if you do screw up, you should feel it. You should beat yourself up about it. You should take time to allow yourself to feel badly for your mistake. But then focus must shift to righting the wrong. Beating oneself up for an error they feel carries weight creates growth and fortifies strength. These are values that we at ASC are 100% positive Marcus Williams will carry with him as he vowed last night that he will “do all that [he] can to never let that happen again.” But to define him solely by an action that spanned less than one second would mean discounting the work he put into turning this team around all season.
Including the playoffs, Williams had 86 total tackles, 5 interceptions, and 10 passes defended. By the 12th week of the season, according to PFF, he was only targeted 8 times when in primary coverage downfield. That’s exactly what I wrote about in Williams’s Setting the Scene at the beginning of the season. When he plays deep, the field shrinks. That’s a luxury we never had with Jairus Byrd. He was also a solid run defender throughout the season, rating higher than 80.0 in both run defense and pass coverage. He also tied for Desmond King as the third best rookie DB (safeties and cornerbacks) in the league with a grade of 86.5. Behind Tre’Davious White (92.0) and fellow Saint Marshon Lattimore (90.2).
To imagine that this Saints team would be 11-5 NFC South champions without Marcus Williams is a big time stretch. And to think that he won’t be a big part of next year’s improved performance, is just plain stupid. We believe the coaching staff feels the same way considering Williams played 90.55% of this seasons snaps, most of any Safety on the roster. Before the skeptics say a thing, he was also leading the Safety snap count when Vaccaro was active. The support that fellow players, Saints or otherwise, has been overwhelming and we can’t wait to see the fire he comes with next season.