Calvin Johnson really calling it quits?
Apparently rumors of Calvin Johnson retiring have actually come to fruition, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the Detroit Lions’ legendary receiver informed coach Jim Caldwell that he is finished in the NFL.
Initial reactions include the words “Barry Sanders” and “dumpster fire franchise,” but this is not the same Motor City song and dance that we’ve seen in years past. The once-stomping Lions did make the playoffs twice in the past five years (albeit the only two times during his career) – Megatron making five pro bowls in nine years and single-handedly carrying his offense to unexpected levels with catches like this..
He turns 31 this coming season, with a burnt out body seemingly unable to keep trucking along with an unspectacular and inconsistent quarterback and a franchise buried in football purgatory. Yet despite the ubiquitous disappointment from fans, coaches, players and the like, Calvin Johnson left in the classy fashion we all know and expect from the belligerently talented Georgia Tech product. Especially after a season in which the still-capable-of-dominating Johnson played in all 16 games and pulled in 88 receptions for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns (his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season and the seventh of his career), the Lions couldn’t survive a last-minute dropout. Instead, CJ gave his beloved Lions ample time to grieve and prepare for the future – an entire offseason, really.
The Lions, meanwhile, support their icon, saying they have “profound respect for Calvin and certainly understand and appreciate his decision to give proper thought and consideration to his football future” (per ESPN).
While the fans and the execs can respect Calvin’s classy departure, this will leave the football world forever wondering what could have been. Calvin, while a likely Hall-of-Famer, definitely shot a torpedo at his campaign with the unexpected early retirement. Calvin was well on his way to insurmountably historic numbers in almost every receiving category and could (should) have ended his career six years from now alongside the likes of Jerry Rice, Don Hudson and Randy Moss, who played well into his late 30s.
We respect CJ. We’ll love him forever. But the game of football has a short memory – in 30 years people will still be talking about Jerry, but we’re not sure anymore if Calvin will have that kind of longevity. The NFL has lost one of the best ever, but as he walks away from guaranteed immortality, we thank Calvin Johnson for showing us what great football is all about.
Maybe now Matt Stafford will have to stop being a fat slob. Without Megatron, he has no choice but to shape up and become the quarterback he was drafted to be – or forever fade into dust, without any of the love experienced by his friend Calvin (or Hobbes).
Most NFL chatters want to compare or relate this significant decision to Barry Sanders’ abrupt Detroit exit from football in 1999, when he was just 1,457 yards short of Walter Payton’s NFL career rushing record of 16,726. But Barry left for two crucial reasons that came out progressively since his retirement. One, he was “exhausted and frustrated that the Detroit Lions’ front office did not seem willing to build a winning team,” reported by ESPN in 2003. Two was the apparent refusal of the Lions to trade Sanders, which can spin any competitive athlete into a whirling dervish of anger.
It’s easy to say the Ford family runs a crap organization, but if the culture of losing (the team posted losing records in the other non-playoff seven seasons, including their 7-9 mark in 2015) was the real factor, Calvin Johnson would’ve left after his Year 8. While he may be satisfied with his decision right now, he can’t possibly rule out a comeback. Per Spotrac.com, he’s set to make nearly $16 million in base salary in 2016 – an awful lot to leave on the table, though probably not worth another year of smashing his brain.
Remember, this is a guy who once played with a partially torn PCL for two months straight. At 6-foot-5, this 240-pound Transformer is no weak soul. If he needs to hang up those cleats, I believe in his decision – even if seeing the best pure-talent receiver ever call it quits is beyond heartbreaking. I remember dreaming of the day he’d officially shatter every record in the book. Instead, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft finishes as the Lions’ all-time franchise leader in receptions (731) and receiving yards (11,619). Calvin’s best season was in 2012, when he hauled in 122 receptions for 1,964 yards.
Now we’re left wondering what greatness really is. Clearly you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
Possible Calvin Johnson returns
We’ve seen it with tons of athletes (think Brett Favre’s 18+ retirements); the comeback. At only 30, with plenty of solid football ahead of him if he wishes to pursue a few more years, Calvin has his pick of any team on planet Earth. However, there are a few that quickly stick out – the old school Green Bay Packers, the cheating New England Patriots, the Super Bowl-bound Carolina Panthers, the oft-injured Pittsburgh Steelers and those damn Seattle Seahawks. All of those teams are perennially good, though why these five? Let’s take a look..
They have Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, but the latter could easily move inside and create a three-way dynamo of production. This past season also showed us that Cobb is quite useless without help.
Sure they have Kelvin Benjamin coming back and a rejuvenated Ted Ginn Jr. (relax), but would you really keep Jericho Cotchery over Megatron? No, no you wouldn’t.
Not sure Tyler Lockette and Doug Baldwin are as good as we think, and I know Jimmy Graham isn’t. This team would have yet another weapon to do whatever the hell they want with. Calvin would have CenturyLink field hitting new earthquake numbers.
You can never have too many receivers and Calvin Johnson would fit with the Pats similarly to Randy Moss when he lived in New England. Tom Brady and Calvin Johnson, it would obviously work.
This receiving corps is probably set for now. Until Calvin decides to return..