Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Why Calvin Johnson should retire

Once upon a time, Calvin Johnson was referred to as the "Megatron". He was tall, fast, and made incredible catches, racking up yardage and touchdowns galore for the Detroit Lions. But that was then.

Nowadays, the Megatron name seems to have gone away. It's just Calvin Johnson. Sure, he's still a better than average receiver, but no longer considered elite among NFL gurus.

Calvin Johnson will turn 31 shortly after the 2016 football season gets underway. Not geezer-ish, but hardly a spring chicken either. And oh my, he's taken more than his fair share of beatings over the years playing for the woeful Lions.

Reports say CJ is contemplating retirement. He should, for a few reasons.

First, he's already made more than enough money (over $100 million) to tide him over forever after. And by most all accounts, Johnson is an upstanding righteous man with few if any vices. It's not like he'd go out and blow so much money on a posse, girls, gambling, or be dumb enough to let some shyster con him out of it with a "can't miss" investment. Let's just say CJ is fairly well financially set for life.

Second, there's the health issue. In recent years, Johnson has been so banged up he can barely practice between games. This has been mostly due to various leg problems. To his credit, Calvin always seems to find a way to strap it on and play in the actual games, but continuing to do so comes with its risks as well.

While his contract with the Lions runs through the 2019 season, it is highly doubtful Johnson could survive another 4 years in the NFL, particularly on that team. And even if he did, what price might be pay in later life? Would he be hobbled by arthritis or similar maladies by the time he's 40? Nobody knows. Nobody but Calvin himself knows how bad he's already hurting. And hey, let get's real. The opposing defenses don't give a rat's behind. They'll continue to pound him every chance they get. On that note, nobody knows how many concussions Johnson may have already suffered over his career, but it's likely several, considering how many helmet to helmet shots he's taken. If he sticks around, as the years tick by and the hits continue to take their inevitable toll, the former Megatron could well not only become physically disabled for life, but mentally too.

Third, the chances of him ever sniffing a Super Bowl while playing for the Lions are slim to none. Even now -- though they won't admit it -- Detroit is in a rebuild mode (aren't they always?), and few would doubt several other NFC teams are vastly superior, while still others are on the rise. Calvin Johnson may have given all he had, but he was never destined to be a champion while playing for the Honolulu blue and silver. That just wasn't in the cards.

If Calvin Johnson indeed decided to retire, he would be a border-line Hall of Fame candidate. As the Megatron, he had a few huge years. But that was the result of the Lions not having a decent complimentary running game, and continuing to throw in CJ's general direction when they needed a big play. The other teams knew what was coming. Johnson made his catches/yards/TDs, but also paid a severe price. He's also been prone to dropping a lot of passes along the way. And fumbles. And he's never won anything -- not even a single playoff game. The H of F voters would have a lot to consider when studying his entire body of work to determine if they deemed him worthy of induction. The Detroit faithful might think it a slam dunk, but more objective folks could well think otherwise several years down the road when it comes time to weigh in on such a matter.

Fourth, as mentioned above, nobody even calls Johnson the Megatron any more. As age, injuries, and year after year of playing for the Lions has taken its toll, his stats have begun to slide. He will never be as productive as he once was. To think otherwise is folly. And if he continues, it will only get worse, on all fronts.

He made a lot of money, had a semi-long career in the NFL, and brought some joy to long-suffering Detroit Lions' fans along the way with some of his spectacular moments.

But for his own sake, Calvin (nee Megatron) Johnson needs to get out while he's still somewhat physically healthy and has his wits about him. Both could change for the worse -- much worse -- if he continues to play for the Lions.

An alternative:  Calvin tells the Lions he's willing to forfeit the roughly $100 million still left on his contract through the 2019 season. That would give the team a lot of cap room to sign talent elsewhere, which they're desperately in need of. They'd likely go for it. But Calvin wants to be a free agent to play one more year for another team with a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl. If the Lions released him from his contract, he would indeed be a free agent. If he was willing accept a little bit less money in a last quest for a championship, a couple teams would likely be interested in his services. Consider the New England Patriots. They have little speedy guys, but are in need of a big wide receiver. Methinks CJ would love the idea of playing in Bill Bellichick's system with Tom Brady spreading the ball around. How about Carolina? Already Super Bowl bound, how good would those guys be next year with Calvin added to the mix and Cam Newton pulling the trigger?

Here's hoping Calvin Johnson puts a lot of thought into what he wants to do next. Lord knows, he's paid his dues in Detroit and, other than a pile of money, has little to show for it. He should either retire outright, or give it one more shot with a team of his choice to hopefully be in the same room as the Lombardi trophy next February.

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