FRISCO, Texas — Micah Parsons knew the risk in the moment.
“I’m not trying to make no enemies,” Parsons told Buffalo Bills pass rusher Von Miller on Miller’s “Voncast” show this week. “I just love the game so much that I can’t, when things are off, I can’t hold it in like I’ve got to say something.”
So Parsons said it.
“If we look at the Eagles,” he wondered, “is it Hurts or the team?”
Translation: Is quarterback Jalen Hurts deserving of MVP honors if his team, a model of talent and stability, depends less on his individual performance to succeed than a counterpart like the Kansas City Chiefs‘ Patrick Mahomes?
Bleacher Report aired a clip of the conversation Tuesday, the full interview downloading Wednesday.
Thursday after practice, sweat still dripping down his face, Parsons addressed the feedback from the first question of his weekly media availability.
What does Philadelphia now think of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native?
“I’m sure they hate me,” Parsons said. But “I’ll always, I mean: You’ve got to stand on everything you say, just as a man.”
Parsons said he didn’t mean he was standing on some fans and social media pundits’ interpretation of his conversation. Just that those who believed he 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 trailing only Mahomes. (The Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow and Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen also have accounted for 32 total touchdowns.)
“No pun intended or no disrespect to Hurts,” Parsons said. “I think he’s doing great this year. But you know me: I’m a defensive guy, and I said the Eagles’ defense is the team to watch. They just got hell of [defenders] making plays all year. From a defensive aspect, I know how offensive guys get all the credit.
“So I just wanted to stick up for the defensive guys.”
Parsons mentioned cornerbacks Darius Slay and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, as well as Eagles offensive linemen Lane Johnson, Jordan Mailata and Jason Kelce, as Philadelphia players who have impressed him on the 12-1 team.
“Why is quarterback the most valuable position when there are 22 jobs?” Parsons asked. “Now is it the hardest position? You can argue it’s probably the hardest position, that and cornerback.”
Quarterbacks exclusively have won the AP NFL Most Valuable Player award since 2013, with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers leading the pack with four of those honors. The last defensive player to win the award was Giants outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1986. In 36 seasons since, the league MVP has 29 times recognized a quarterback (including split awards), and the other eight winners 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 have continued to anchor the Cowboys’ defense this year, racking up 12 sacks in 13 games in addition to three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery returned for a touchdown.
Parsons has lined up primarily as a defensive end despite the Cowboys “officially” reporting him as a linebacker. He’s currently the odds-on favorite for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, per BetMGM.
Does that warrant MVP consideration? Parsons has never explicitly advocated for his own recognition so much as his position and side of the ball’s due respect.
“People forget that football is complementary,” Parsons said. “How good we do on defense helps Dak [Prescott]. If we hold the team to their 20[-yard line] and they punt, then [our returner] gets the ball back to the 50, now Dak is already on the plus side. It’s complementary football. Not everything is just QB or whatever.
“It’s defense, special teams, it’s guys who don’t get the credit.”
Parsons acknowledged that his perceived slight at Hurts generated a “s***storm,” a risk even more notable as the Cowboys host their NFC East-rival Eagles on Christmas Eve. At 10-3, Dallas would need help to catch Philadelphia in the division race. But the playoff-caliber matchup will be telling for both teams.
Parsons said he doesn’t worry about speaking his mind, believing “people should have opinions” and his — as long as they’re respectful — are a mark of authenticity.
“Not once did I ever disrespect Hurts or any other player in any way,” Parsons said. “I’m just talking football. If football is a hurtful conversation, then what are we playing for? I think the job is more hurtful than the conversation, you know.
“[Others] get to talk s*** all day. Why can’t we talk a little chatter? I don’t understand what’s so hurtful when we talk about each other.”