The position has been filled with David Carr, Matt Schaub, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. These are the primary Houston Texans quarterbacks of the Andre Johnson era. This is a sad, pathetic list of QBs. And yet many people still wonder why Andre Johnson is having second thoughts about continuing to play for the Texans.
Johnson's the greatest player in the history of the Texans. He's on that very short list with Earl Campbell as the greatest player to ever play for a professional football team in Houston (if you want to count his short tenure with the USFL's Houston Gamblers, then you can include Jim Kelly). But unlike Campbell, Johnson's never been in the position to put the Texans on his back and carry the team to the playoffs. Johnson's a receiver, and there's only so much a receiver can do with QBs who can't get him the ball, or when the head coach wants to use him as the fifth decoy to a third string tight end in the red zone.
But for 11 seasons Johnson has taken to the field and excelled at the game of football. He's started 154 games, caught 927 passes for 12,661 yards and 61 touchdowns. He's blocked on running plays, served as a decoy. He's attempted to dodge injuries caused by the Texans crappy turf, and he's come to near stops on wide open bombs because certain QBs didn't have the arm strength to get the ball deep enough.
Johnson's made a habit of restructuring his contract, giving up guaranteed base pay. This has allowed the Texans to stay under the cap and work new deals with other players -- most recently being last season when he allowed the team to cut his base pay from $10.5 million to $5.5 million so the team could sign Brian Cushing to a 6-year deal.
Johnson's stated that he wants a chance to play on a winning team. That he doesn't want to start all over again. Isn't this the attitude that all fans should want, a guy who wants to win football games? Yet the primary fan response is that Johnson should suck it up, take his pay, and play for a rebuilding team. It's one thing to say this to J.J. Watt who's still young, or to Ryan Fitzpatrick who's a mediocre journeyman known as much for his awful TD/interception ratio and for going to Harvard than he is for his abilities as a QB.
But Johnson's about to play his 12th season. It's a career that's seen his team reach the playoffs just twice. It's a career that's seen his team rebuild multiple times. He's been the face of the franchise, going out into the city performing charitable deeds and setting the perfect example for his teammates. He's been the consummate professional. The guy just wants one last chance to play for a winner, yet somehow he's the bad guy for not wanting to just sit back and take it.
It's hard to name another top-notch wide receiver who has played with such a string of crappy QBs for his entire career -- even Larry Fitzgerald had Kurt Warner for a few years. Jerry Rice had Joe Montana and Steve Young for most his career. Reggie Wayne's caught passes from Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. Calvin Johnson now has Matt Stafford's big arm and Stafford's belief in Johnson's ability to catch any pass thrown in his direction.
How would those receivers do if David Carr was slinging the ball in their direction, or if they dealt with a QB who'd rather throw a short pass to a running back than to the best receiver in the game? Just think of what Andre Johnson's numbers might look like if Tom Brady was throwing him jump balls in the end zone every week.
Johnson's career will end soon -- the odds are the Texans will drop him after this upcoming season because they no longer want to pay him. All he wants is a chance at the Super Bowl. Instead the Texans have provided him with a coach who's reputation is built on the legend of Tom Brady (just like the reputation of his previous coach was built on the legends of John Elway and Steve Young) but has yet to prove anything as a head coach. He got to watch his bosses pass on drafting a potentially elite QB in the first round so that a Mario Williams clone could be selected instead. The guy should have demanded a trade by now, instead he's expressing displeasure and thinking out his options.
Maybe Texans fans should lash out at Bob McNair instead of Andre Johnson. McNair's the one, after all, who's been happy fielding a mediocre product from year to year. Andre Johnson doesn't want to take anymore. It's a shame the fans don't feel the same way.
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