For better or for worse, Marcus Williams had a memorable 2017 season.
Williams was drafted by the Saints in the second round of last year’s draft out of the University of Utah. The hope was that New Orleans would add Williams’ ball-hawking abilities along with fellow draftee Marshon Lattimore to Vonn Bell and Kenny Vaccaro and create a young, stout, turnover-inducing secondary that rivals that of any other team in the league.
That goal came to fruition.
Williams wasn’t just along for the ride that was the Saints defensive turnaround, as he was one of the catalysts. Starting 15 games, Williams’ four interceptions was second to only Lattimore and he broke up an additional seven passes en route to an All-Rookie team selection.
On the road against Carolina in Week 3 is where Williams made the first impact play of his career: a diving, one-handed interception made off a deflection.
Williams would go on to pick off three additional passes against the other NFC South teams, both on the road. The first came on a Thursday night when Matt Ryan tried forcing a ball into Julio Jones’ arms in the end zone, and interceptions number three and four were by means of Jameis Winston in the regular season finale at Tampa Bay.
Creating mayhem is Williams’ game. In college, he intercepted 10 passes, broke up eight more and forced four fumbles. The Saints needed a center fielder, and Williams proved to be that guy. He earned All-Rookie accolades; Pro Football Focus gave him an overall grade of 86, the 11th-best ranking among all safeties; by all accounts Williams was everything and more than the Saints could have hoped for when drafting him last spring.
Unfortunately for all the stellar play Williams showed throughout 2017, there will always be those who only remember him for his missed tackle against Stefon Diggs in the NFC Divisional Round. Fair or not, Williams’ gaffe puts him right up there with Bill Buckner, Chris Webber, and Scott Norwood in sports history.
Williams goofed, plain and simple. If he makes that tackle, the game almost definitely ends right there and the Saints move on to face the eventual Super Bowl winning Eagles in Philadelphia. But he didn’t, Williams missed the tackle, Minnesota moves on and proceeds to get the brakes beaten off of them by the Eagles and Philly wins the Super Bowl in the same building where the Minneapolis Miracle took place.
I picked the picture of Williams picking off Case Keenum in front of Diggs for a reason: to serve as a reminder that Williams is just as responsible for sparking the Saints near-comeback as anyone. Williams’ fifth and final interception of 2017 turned the NFC Divisional Round from blowout to near-New Orleans victory.
They say history is written by the victors, and that’s why most will remember Marcus Williams as the guy who missed the tackle. But for those who paid attention, they’ll know Marcus Williams was instrumental to a defensive turnaround in New Orleans. They’ll know that he was a large piece in the Saints phenomenal rookie class of 2017. They’ll know Williams is the eraser and the ball hawk for the best, young secondary in the NFL.
Marcus Williams won’t let one play define his career. Neither should we.