Chris Jones Rodney Harrison interview Sunday Night Football Chris Jones and Rodney Harrison on Sunday Night Football. (NBC.)

In going after New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, NBC’s Rodney Harrison opened himself up to criticism.

The former NFL star received a ton of criticism Monday as his postgame interview on the set of Sunday Night Football with Chiefs’ Chris Jones came across as weirdly personal.

Perhaps Harrison was trying to save face from reporting earlier that the BYU product was missing wide-open wide receivers during 7-on-7’s in warm-ups. While that was never confirmed by reporters in the building, they were also on Taylor Swift Watch.

Or maybe he’s still upset that Sauce Gardner seemingly had no idea who he was.

“Watching that tape, man, you’ve gotta look at this dude and say, ‘Oh, he is garbage. Like we should really tear him apart,’” Harrison said while interrupting an answer in which Jones was praising Wilson. “But tonight, he came out and played extremely well against you guys.”

After Jones later referred to Wilson as “special” again, Harrison refused to let it slide.

“Wait, wait, wait a minute. Did you say Zach Wilson is special?” the former All-Pro safety asked.

“Yeah,” Jones replied matter-of-factly.

“I think he had a special night, but I don’t think he’s special,” Harrison said. “He’s gotta prove that. You’re special because you’ve proved it over a course of time. He’s not special. I’m just saying, Chris.”

All things considered, this wasn’t the game to criticize Wilson for, as he completed 28-fo-39 passes for 245 yards with two touchdowns in the 23-20 loss to the Chiefs. That’s what made Harrison’s postgame remarks so confusing and why he’s been criticized by a couple of former NFL players now in the media themselves like Taylor Lewan and Matt Leinart.

While Harrison has since apologized for his remarks to Jets head coach Robert Saleh, his criticism of Wilson seemed to open up another talking point about how former athletes like Harrison speak about their counterparts.

“This is trash,” wrote Leinart on Twitter (or X). “Our job in the media is to analyze and to critique, not to rip these guys apart, especially after a great game. Complete garbage.”

Lewan, the long-time NFL offensive tackle who, since 2019, has co-hosted Barstool’s Bussin’ With The Boys podcast with former teammate Will Compton, was a bit more pointed with his criticism of Harrison. The 32-year-old Lewan, who is not retired, came to the defense of Wilson on Up & Adams with host Kay Adams on Monday.

“Who I think needs to get tested right now is Rodney Harrison,” said Lewan. “That was wild amirite? Sitting there with Chris Jones, who by the way, I need to give some flowers to Chris Jones. I am a big fan of that man both on the field and off the field. He’s a great individual and he handled that situation perfectly. Like we kind of talked about before, Taylor Swift has brought such a wild amount of eyes to the National Football League, that already gets so many eyes week in and week out. Like Rodney, what are we doing trying to get more clicks? I know that’s the game that we’re all inevitably playing, like how can we get somebody to say something so the national media talks about whatever’s going on?

Bussin’ with the Boys, we would love for that stuff to happen, however, the baiting and being like ‘You should’ and ‘Hey, isn’t he trash? I’ve been watching that film saying he’s garbage’ Like brother, you had an amazing career. Everywhere you walk in the football world people tip their cap to you and they respect you, but we should not be ever taking down a guy like that. “He’s literally a kid. He’s a child. He’s 23, 24 years old…I just don’t see the reason. Like you kind of look at it and you walk away from the situation going, ‘Why? Why would you do that?’

“People need to put into perspective how hard it is to get into the NFL alone. So, to say the word, special, the scale we’re using, is he special as far as like a top-tier quarterback in the NFL right now? No. The statistics show that. It’s a consensus. He’s not special in that way, but he made it to the NFL, and he’s doing the best he can. Besides the obvious off-the-field stuff from his personal life this offseason that we’re not gonna get into, he’s kept his nose clean. He’s done a great job. He seems like he’s handled himself really well on Hard Knocks. I just don’t get the shot. I do not understand it.”

It wasn’t just former players.

Micah Parsons, who has already come to the defense of Wilson on one occasion, stood up for him again after Harrison bashed him on SNF.

“To me bro, that’s just not right,” Parsons said during his Bleacher Report live show, The Edge. “I always keep my faith in God and I’m just gonna keep this real with you. I truly believe that we are not one judge. We cannot keep saying someone’s garbage, saying who’s special, who’s not special. Now, if you’re a really good football player—yes, Chris Jones is a really good football player. Is he a better player than Zach Wilson? Yes, but Chris has built himself upon that. We’re not giving that same courtesy as Zach Wilson. Let him grow. He’s continuing to get better each week and week out. And that’s just to me, that’s just a fraudulent move…

“I’m not the one to decide who’s special and who’s not special. Zach Wilson is special in his own way, bro. You can’t sit here and say, ‘Oh you look at the tape and he’s garbage.’ Like c’mon Rodney, like you didn’t even do that. You can say he’s not a [Patrick] Mahomes tier. Yeah, you can say that, you can’t say that he’s not a good quarterback. He’s a starting quarterback in the NFL…Bro, he’s a top-five pick. He got drafted that high for a reason. Let his traits and everything he do grow, bro.

“Zach, I hope you win. I really hope you win. I hope you grow into the player that no one thinks that you can grow into bro, because there’s a lot of people that’s hatin’ on you, brother. Hall of Famers, ex-pro players, which makes no sense. I get we all love the game of football, but at the end of the day, we have to remember that Zach is a human being. Zach is a human. We don’t use our platform to degrade other players. We use our platform to uplift people. We use our platform to talk good about people…Every person in this world just needs someone to believe in them, OK?”

The Cowboys play on Sunday Night Football in Week 5. Maybe Parsons will exchange some words with Harrison then. In the meantime, good on Leinart, Lewan, and Parsons for coming to the defense of Wilson, who has been piled on enough, while also taking Harrison to task for how he talks about players.

It may be “water under the bridge” for Saleh, but a lot of those in the NFL aren’t going to let former players speak about them like this. This seems like it should serve as a lesson for Harrison, amongst others.

[Matt Leinart, Kay Adams on X]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.