2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the movie TAPS and with it, the fourth decade of Tom Cruise being in our lives. Growing up a huge S.E. Hinton fan, I can remember first seeing Cruise in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film adaptation of The Outsiders. The Outsiders–holy smokes. What a cast?!? Patrick Swayze (RIP). Matt Dillon (LET’S DO IT FOR JOHNNY). Rob Lowe. Emilio Estevez (Charlie Sheen’s less crazy brother). Diane Lane (meow). Leif Garrett (yikes). Tom Freaking Waits (unintelligible gargle)!!! I could go on, but I won’t because that would get incredibly boring. The craziest thing about The Outsiders is that, with a cast loaded up with pretty much every teen superstar of the 1980’s, how often Cruise grabs your attention, despite appearing in only four scenes. Charisma. Magnetism. Call it what you want. Cruise had it in spades. Six months later, Cruise and his tighty-whiteys would star in Risky Business and subsequently become the biggest star in the world, a role which he has pretty much held for 40 years now. How ubiquitous was Cruise in the eighties? Pretty much the only people in America who didn’t own a VHS tape of Top Gun in 1988 were homeless people and the Amish. I am pretty sure even some homeless people had a copy. Sometimes you can just tell. Talent so undeniable it slaps you in the face. I had that feeling watching The Outsiders in 1983. I had that same feeling watching Rashan Gary against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020. 2020 was Rashan’s The Outsiders. The 2021 season, his version of Risky Business. 2022? Let’s just say Rashan Gary is going to be dangerous.
Rashan Gary is fond of calling himself Bane, like the villain who breaks Batman’s back in Christopher Nolan’s just okay The Dark Knight Rises. It’s a badass nickname. But, if I would be so bold, I think he is named after the wrong superhero villain. Sure Bane is big and nasty, but after a year in Joe Barry’s defensive scheme, Rashan is going to more closely resemble Thanos–A world destroyer disguised as a rush end. Gary stands 6’5″ and weighs in around 275 pounds. For reference, Tom Cruise is charitably listed at 5’7″ and weighs 148 pounds. Rashan Gary could ostensibly use Tom Cruise as a weight to do forearm curls with. He was clocked at a 4.58 second forty yard dash at the NFL combine back in 2019. Full grown adult human beings his size are just not supposed to move that fast. Hell, full grown adult jaguars are not supposed to move that fast. Remember when we talked about RAS score’s a few weeks ago (for the uninitiated, RAS scoring is a score given to football players to rank their overall athleticism)? A good RAS score for a defensive would be in the 7’s. Rashan’s score was 9.95. It is the second highest score given out to a defensive end in RAS history. I am no mathematician, but that seems good. If you want to see what that athleticism looks like on a football field, go watch the sack Gary puts on Baker Mayfield from 2021. Or the pummeling he handed out to Matthew Stafford in Lambeau last November. I’ll wait.
While his athleticism is jaw-dropping, maybe the most impressive aspect of Rashan Gary’s career thus far is how steadily he has developed. In 2019, Gary only recorded 2 sacks. Now, mind you, he was our third rush end at the time and still adjusting to his role as a stand up rusher. 2020 he takes a step forward, and racks up 5 sacks, scoring an additional 1.5 sacks in the postseason. A man does what he does until his destiny is revealed. 2021 was his coming out party. Stepping in for Za’Darrius Smith, who missed nearly the entire season with a back injury, Gary capitalized on this opportunity, to the tune of 9.5 sacks, and was nearly unblockable in Green Bay’s nightmare-inducing loss to San Francisco in the playoffs. His quarterback pressure numbers tell an even more richer story. Rashan was 4th in the NFL last season in quarterback hurries, and 5th in the league with 47 quarterback pressures. The previous season he had ranked in the 70’s in both categories. During the end of season interviews in January, Gary got emotional when talking about what an influence Joe Barry had been for him in 2021. Cut to today–Joe Barry has had an entire season to take stock of what he has in his 275 pound human buzzsaw. Gary has likewise had a year to settle in to his role as the unquestioned starter at rush end, has had an entire offseason to sharpen his skills and better understand how Barry intends to apply these skills. Barry has proven in the past what he can do with very talented linebackers (Leoanrd Floyd, Dante Fowler, Ryan Kerrigan, Robert Quinn). Gary isn’t just very talented. He is exceptionally talented. I can just picture Joe Barry walking up to Rashan Gary after the Packers pitch a shutout in the 2022 Super Bowl and tearfully whispering, “You complete me!”.
Not that any of this hype should be foreign to Rashan Gary at this point. Gary was the unanimous #1 high school recruit in the country in 2016. He capped off a legendary career at Paramus Catholic in New Jersey (guess who else went to high school in New Jersey? You guessed Tom Cruise? Damn, you are good at this!) with a 2016 season underscored by 13.5 sacks, 55 tackles, and an eyewatering 29 tackles for loss. Did I mention he did this in 9 games? 9 FREAKING GAMES? That is nearly 1.5 sacks and 3 tackles for loss per game. That stat line might as well be written in Chinese because it’s hard for me to understand. He started at defensive tackle in the 2016 Under Armour All American game where he ripped off 6 tackles and 3 sacks in 31 total snaps. Mind you, this was a high school all star game. Now, my cheesehead brethren, I know you do not need me extolling the virtues of Mr. Gary to you–you watch the games. You have bore witness to his awesomeness. Take what you have seen to this point, and put it in a paper shredder. You haven’t seen Rashan Gary upset.
Green Bay made it Facebook official at the 2022 NFL Draft by investing such expensive draft capital on the defensive side of the ball–in the age of explosive offenses, the Packers are pivoting to defense. Tom Cruise made a similar pivot 10 years ago, eschewing original Hollywood entertainment and focusing solely on franchise intellectual property as a response to Marvel’s recent dominance at the megaplex. In the next calendar year, Cruise is set to launch Top Gun 2 (hell yes, I already have my tickets) and yet another Mission Impossible sequel into movie theaters across the world. He is going to pick a lot of fights. He is going to break a lot of bones. So is Rashan Gary (what else would you call the NFC North but a target-rich enviroment?). It’s going to be a big year for these two titans of American entertainment. If Rashan Gary ends up having the season I think he will, in the summer of 2023, he will be making Tom Cruise money! Some things are just undeniable.
Timothy Preece has been a Packers fan since 1991 and currently lives in Utah because he makes bad decisions. You can follow him on twitter at @LegitimateTimP.