The NFL has lost two monster receivers in the last year. Calvin Johnson announced his retirement following last season. Victim of a mediocre franchise and a body that could no longer withstand the beating it had endured over 9 years as the focal point of the Lions offense. He decided the best thing for him and his family was to walk away from the game. Much like Barry Sanders a decade and a half earlier, he left fans in Detroit clamoring for more. But who are we to judge? It’s not like we were the ones risking being a cripple by the age of 40. His hands were mangled and he was in pain. It was too soon. He still had gas left in the tank. But he had to go.
Andre Johnson announced his retirement following week 8, in the middle of the his 14th NFL season. The longtime member of the Houston Texans walked away from the game after it became obvious that he couldn’t play at a high level anymore. He was released by the Texans following the 2014 season, spent last season with the Colts and was on the Tennessee Titans roster this season. He spent the entire season as a backup and hadn’t registered a catch since week 5. Clearly his time has passed, and unlike Calvin Johnson at the time of his retirement, he was no longer able to produce. He knew it was time to walk away.
With the retirement of both of these giants, the question has been asked if one or both of these guys belong in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. I don’t really understand the argument against either. For a decade they were two of the most feared wideouts in football and defenses routinely were forced to game plan around them. In their respective primes they were borderline unstoppable. In my opinion both the Johnsons belong in the Hall of Fame.
Calvin only played for 9 seasons, and because of that he sits further down the list for most of the major receiving statistics. But did have the most yards ever in a season back in 2012 (1,964). He was the ONLY weapon on the Lions’ offense for years at a time, and gave the fans in Detroit a reason to watch. His nickname was Megatron because he constantly made plays that seemed inhuman. Calvin Johnson was a machine and changed the way people viewed the wide receiver position.
Andre has some things in his resume that Calvin lacks. He played for 14 seasons and and has 2 playoffs wins under his belt (2011 and 2012). His longevity shows that he was able to be an important part of the Texans offense for years, despite having worse quarterback play for most of his career. Andre never had quite the monster season that Megatron did in 2012, but he still averaged over 1,000 yards per season for his entire career. That’s impressive. He is also the only player in NFL history to have 60+ receptions in his first 8 seasons.
In the NFL of today, where defenses are able to game plan around specific players and try to minimize their impact, these two players were as impactful as any. They were famous for their big play ability and their knack for making eye-popping catches. One defender, two defenders or three. It didn’t matter. These two could make opposing cornerbacks look silly at any moment. It’s not Calvin’s fault that he doesn’t have a playoff win (he appeared in 2 game with the Lions in 2011 and 2014). It’s not his fault that he played in an era that actually puts value on player’s quality of life during and after football, as opposed to running these guys into an early grave. Megatron doesn’t have the longevity of players from past eras and he may not have the playoff resume, but for almost a decade he was transcendent. Andre might not have had quite the same aura of dominance, but he was damn sure dominant on the field. He didn’t have the bad ass nickname but he had the skills to be sure. He was every bit the receiver as the other Johnson.
Shouldn’t the Hall of Fame have something to do with the level of fame that the player achieved? In a league with 32 teams, not everyone gets to the playoffs and not everyone gets a Super Bowl. Neither of these two players has a championship ring but they had the fame and the reputation as guys not to be taken lightly or underestimated on the field. They both deserve to be in the Hall of Fame because for years, they were the best of the best. In 7 years, when it’s time to put their names into consideration, and their legend has had a chance to grow, I’m confident they will both be there.