Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Calvin Johnson and the wrong place

Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin "Megatron" Johnson is one of those special guys that only comes along every generation or so. Kind of like Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Wayne Gretzky, Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, or perhaps Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and even, ahem, Regis Philbin. One way or the other, they were all dominant in their hey-days. Some remain heroes while others have been tainted for various reasons.

Calvin Johnson was the third in a trifecta of "freak" wide receivers in the NFL. "Freak" is meant to mean tall with long arms, superfast, hands of superglue, fearless, muscular, and finding a way to catch passes even in double/triple coverage. Randy Moss was the original freak, and Terrell Owens fit the same mold. Honorable mention to date for Dez Bryant of the Cowboys. He's getting close.

But there's a difference between Calvin Johnson and the folks mentioned in the opening paragraph above. The others all won something along the way. Sometimes multiple titles. Johnson has never won anything of note.

He will turn 30 shortly after the 2015 NFL season starts, and be in his ninth year with the Lions. Detroit has him under contract through the year 2019, when he will obviously be 34. Thirty four is getting up there in the world of the NFL (Not For Long).

Few would dispute Johnson has been and remains one of the premier wide receivers in the league. But he has paid a price for it over the years, notably leg injuries. Nothing serious enough to require major surgery, but he's played through a lot of dings in the last couple years. Many weeks he couldn't even practice. Just go out there on Sunday and suck it up. This is going to happen when a team has few other offensive options and continues to throw the ball in the general direction of Johnson. He should be commended for catching so many and putting up the stats he did, but it's not like the defenses didn't know it was coming. Could they stop it? Maybe not, but they could surely put some hellacious licks on Johnson. And they did.

The Lions and their media would have their fans believe they have improved by adding other offensive threats to take the load off Johnson. Perhaps they have. Golden Tate was a nice free agent addition, though one is left to wonder why he left a Super Bowl winning team in a beautiful city like Seattle to go to a perennial loser in a crime infested wasteland like Detroit.

The next Lions running back is always going to be their salvation -- or so the story has gone for many years. They have a bevy of tight ends, but none seems to be a complete player. The offensive line has been completely revamped. Maybe it works out. Maybe not. So far, they don't even seem to know who's going to play what position. Not a good sign.

Thing is, the Lions don't appear to be positioned as Super Bowl contenders any year soon. Within their own division, Green Bay is still a superior team. Granted, it appears the San Fran 49ers are headed downhill, but the Seahawks remain as formidable as ever. Didn't they just get all-world tight end Jimmy Graham from the Saints? The Arizona Cardinals are the real deal and who knows what mad scientist Chip Kelly is up to in Philly? Some of his moves appear crazy, but isn't that how eventual geniuses are always perceived when they start out? Bill Belichick, anyone? Jerry Jones in Big D will do whatever it takes to get his Boys back into contention.

While other teams have gone from the mountaintop to the basement and back, the Lions always seem to be in ho-hum over-hyped mode. They've seen the cellar but never come close to the promised land. Year after year, they can never get over the hump. If they beat a long time nemesis, another one (or two) has popped up in the meantime only to swat them back down.

Will the Lions be better than their 11-5 record of last year? Possibly, but probably not. They had a patsy schedule befitting a losing team in 2014 and were incredibly lucky to win a few games they did. Having made the playoffs, the NFL handed them a much tougher schedule for 2015. Look for them to slide back to maybe 9-7. Only the most koolaided Detroit fans would consider them Super Bowl contenders. Please. To boot, head coach Jim Caldwell's history isn't working in their favor either. He's been wildly successful as a coordinator under other head coaches and even fared well with his first year running the show -- but then his teams have a history of going downhill -- fast. We'll see.

Regardless, Calvin Johnson may like playing in Detroit, and he's certainly put up impressive stats while with them. But his chances of winning a Super Bowl are dismal at best in Detroit. He may make a lot of money and someday be considered for the Hall of Fame, but he landed in the wrong place if a "ring" was important to him.

Here's wishing him the best and may his legs hold up through 2019 -- no given -- but it seems a shame such a phenomenal talent might well never get a chance at the ultimate glory. Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs knew about that.

Despite his incredible talent, he was in the wrong place. Calvin Johnson was born and raised in Georgia. Went to high school there. Went to college there. He has said he didn't originally like coming to Detroit but has come to embrace it. Well, OK. Making $20 some million a year typically has a way of cheering up most people a little bit.

But if he has any brains and ever wants to sniff a title, he'll look for a way out of Detroit to a legitimate contender while he still has a few good years left in him. As long as he remains with the Lions, getting anywhere near the Lombardi trophy is highly unlikely, to say the least. And every play of every game could be his last. Stuff happens.

No comments:

Post a Comment