Is Calvin Johnson Doomed To Follow In Barry Sanders’ Footsteps?
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By Chris Morgan
Calvin Johnson is a great wide receiver. This is not a statement that is going to lead to any argument from anybody being reasonable. Whether you use basic or advanced metrics, that is the case. Even in this “down” year, he’s been excellent. Sure, he only has two touchdowns thus far, but he’s actually averaging more yards per game than last season, when he totaled 1,681 yards. He’s actually the career leader in receiving yards per game, and he’s already in the top 100 in career receiving touchdowns.
All this, and he’s only 27. Of course, this is also the NFL, where careers don’t tend to last all that long. Just look at Randy Moss, who is only 34. Johnson probably has another seven seasons in the league, and probably in only five of those will he be able to be a good receiver. Then again, he has the kind of size that could lead to him being able to stick around as a possession receiver when his speed and athleticism leave him. That being said, he has the potential to go down as one of the best receivers of his generation, and perhaps as one of the best ever. The last three years of his career, according to Football Outsiders, are, fittingly, in line with the prime of Lions great Herman Moore. Moore, meanwhile, according to Pro Football Reference, had a career best compared to Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, who may end up a Hall of Famer.
However, and while Moore would be apt for this as well, when thinking of Calvin Johnson, one’s thought may turn to Barry Sanders. Granted, Sanders is one of the best running backs of all-time and a true legend of the game. Johnson’s career would have to go particularly well for that to happen. Of course, Sanders also never got the chance to play in a Super Bowl, let alone win one. Fortunately, he’s not a quarterback, so that isn’t inexplicably held against him. Johnson has had it even rougher. The beginning of his career coincided with the Matt Millen Era. Johnson had to suffer through the first 0-16 season in NFL history. He has been to the playoffs once, and it’s not likely to be twice after this year.
Admittedly, things can change quickly in the NFL. The Lions could be a contender again as soon as next year with some better health, a good offseason, and some more luck. Having said that, Johnson’s career gets shorter after every season. It makes one think that Megatron may end up with fate similar to Sanders, Moore, and Scott Mitchell. One of the league’s best wide receivers may never end up in the Super Bowl, and he certainly might not end up with a ring.
Granted, that happens more often than you may think. Cris Carter never went to a Super Bowl. Tony Gonzalez, a tight end but still a receiver, not to mention arguably the best player in the history of his position, has been kept away from the big game as well. Nevertheless, it would be disappointing if the Lions can’t make it to the Super Bowl while Johnson is here and dominant. Of course, it would just be nice to see the Lions make the Super Bowl for the first time ever if you are a Lions fan. Johnson is the first player that is one of the best, if not the best, at his position that Detroit has had since Sanders left. He may be dealt a similar fate as well.
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Chris has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports “expert.” His work can be found on Examiner.com.