NY Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner put together one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history en route to being named a first-team All-Pro in 2022. His sophomore campaign in 2023 hasn't disappointed either.
Gardner remains one of, if not the best, cornerback in the NFL. His 82.9 Pro Football Focus grade ranks fourth among 112 qualified cornerbacks, while his 88.9 coverage grade ranks third.
Gardner is an elite shutdown cornerback and one of the best defensive players in football. But for whatever reason, there's a narrative out there that suggests otherwise. It's a narrative that only exists online, primarily on social media, but it's still notable.
Some seem to believe that Gardner is given preferential treatment by NFL officials. The narrative suggests that Gardner gets away with penalties because....well, who knows? His pedigree. His draft status. The New York market. His nickname. They've all been thrown out there as excuses.
For the most part, this narrative has remained exclusive to social media trolls, but Gardner was just called out by a fellow top-level cornerback for this very issue.
Marlon Humphrey called out NY Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner
Baltimore Ravens star cornerback Marlon Humphrey said on a recent episode of his Punch Line Podcast this week that Gardner "got away with a lot" last season.
Humphrey insisted that he hasn't watched Gardner play much this season, and he didn't specify why he believes the Jets' All-Pro cornerback receives preferential treatment. Still, he was adamant in his assertion that Gardner is not treated the same way as other NFL cornerbacks.
This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who knows Humphrey. The Ravens' Pro Bowl cornerback has never been one to shy away from bold and controversial takes on social media.
He might just be the most chronically online player in the NFL. It makes sense that one of the most active social media users in the NFL would be the one to push this Twitter-driven narrative. This is a very Marlon Humphrey thing to do.
That's not a shot at Humphrey, either, who is genuinely one of the most entertaining and authentic people in football today. It just makes sense that he is the one to say something like this.
Of course, this narrative is entirely unfounded. Given the Jets' recent track record with officiating (see the discrepancy in roughing the passer calls), it seems unlikely that they would be given preferential treatment by NFL referees.
But it's a lot easier to hate on a player when you make up false narratives, especially when all the actual evidence doesn't support your agenda. Gardner responded to Humphrey on social media with a clap-back of his own.
As Jets head coach Robert Saleh famously said this summer, "If you ain't got no haters, you ain't popping."
When you're as talented as Sauce Gardner is, you're always going to have your fair share of haters. Let's just try to keep this silly narrative about preferential treatment on social media, though.