Game Time: Andre Johnson -- Houston Texan For Life
Andre Johnson, demonstrating why he's not a baseball player
Andre Johnson held out for the first three days of organized team activities this past spring, ostensibly to send a message to the Texans that he wanted to be paid in accordance with what he has become -- the best wide receiver in the National Football League.
I would argue that it wasn't the three days during which Johnson was absent, but instead the day that he returned that was validation enough for the Texans to extend his current deal by two more years, guaranteeing him another $13 million and bringing his deal to a league-best $10.5 million per year.
When Andre came back to the team that Thursday, those that were there said that he was as excited to be back with his teammates as he was uncomfortable not being there to begin with. Andre Johnson is the face of Texans, he knew that, the team knows that.
If the fear with Andre Johnson's contract extension that he received yesterday is the "setting of a dangerous precedent," save it. The precedent that was established yesterday by Bob McNair via Rick Smith was that "the Texans will look at re-working your deal if you are the absolute best at what you do."
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This was a good problem to have, and a great one to solve.
Andre Johnson is the best player in the eight-year history of a franchise admittedly void of great players, which in a way is all the more reason you take care of that guy.
How great has Andre Johnson been?
He has almost 1,000 more career receiving yards as a Texan (7,948) than the team's next three receivers combined (Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter, and Jabar Gaffney combining for 6,980).
His 2007 season in which he missed seven games due to a knee injury is still the eighth-best year (851 yards) by a receiver in the history of the franchise. Johnson led the league in yards receiving per game (94.6 yards) that season.
The comparisons to historical statistics of a lackluster franchise history definitely skew things a bit. But the combined efforts of Andre Johnson's two most recent seasons stack up against the great bodies of work by a wide receiver in league history.
Consider that during the last two seasons, which essentially comprise Johnson's leap from star to superstar, he has led the league in yards receiving both seasons, becoming the only receiver not named Jerry Rice to lead the league in yardage in consecutive seasons, and the only one not named Marvin Harrison to crack the 1,500-yard mark in back-to-back years.
He could have been a Texan, perish the thought
Andre Johnson didn't do it alone, he knows this. The evolution of the Texans offense from sputtering jalopy with David Carr to finely tuned sports car with Matt Schaub is reflected in Johnson's stats as well, with his yards per catch increasing from 10.9 in 2005 to 15.5 last season. Better quarterback, better complementary receivers, and better coaching have allowed Johnson to get downfield more.
Perhaps to establish proper perspective on just how chillingly close the Texans came to yesterday's contract extension celebration not even happening, you need to go back and look at the 2002 regular season. The Texans finished that year 4-12, the Detroit Lions 3-13, which meant the Lions were selecting second overall in the draft and the Texans third.
But go back and look closer.
The Lions had three close shaves in the final four weeks of the season, including an overtime loss, a loss on a late field goal, and loss on a missed two-point conversion in the final week of the season. Point being, if a ball or two bounce differently for Detroit, perhaps the Texans move up to the second pick in the 2003 Draft, meaning that then-Texans general manager Charley Casserley -- a guy who would probably drive through a McDonald's and select a Whopper at this point -- would have been forced to decide between Charles Rogers and Johnson.
Judging by Casserley's track record, both during his Texans GM career as a whole and the rest of the 2003 Draft weekend, eBay would have been awash in discarded "ROGERS 81" Texans jerseys by 2006.
Thankfully, it never came to this. Matt Millen, then-Lions' GM and a guy who would drive through a McDonald's and order...well...a wide receiver, couldn't help himself. He chose Rogers. Johnson landed in Casserley's lap. And the rest is history. Soil-yourself-from-fear history because of how close Casserley came to having to actually make a decision on Rogers and Johnson, but a happy ending for Texans' fans nonetheless.
Andre Johnson is a Texan for life. This is a good day.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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