So we now live in a world where Tom Brady has won more Super Bowl titles as an individual player than any single franchise has won in its history. The scoreboard looks like this — Tom Brady 7, New England Patriots 6, Pittsburgh Steelers 6, and after that, well, does it really matter? Super Bowl week is over, and one of the strangest seasons in our lifetime finished on time and on schedule, somewhat miraculously considering COVID and all.
One underrated part of Super Bowl week that gets lost in the shuffle is the announcement of this year's Hall of Fame class, which will be quite the coronation this summer in Canton, COVID permitting. Here is this year's class:
Congratulations to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021: Alan Faneca, Tom Flores, Calvin Johnson, John Lynch, Peyton Manning, Bill Nunn, Drew Pearson, Charles Woodson.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 7, 2021
That's a pretty awesome group, headlined by Peyton Manning, with a supporting cast of two other first ballot inductees in Charles Woodson and Calvin Johnson, along with Houston native Alan Faneca and former Dallas Cowboy Drew Pearson adding some Texas flavor. Considering we didn't have an actual induction ceremony for the Class of 2020, the jumbo-sized event this summer should be epic.
Now, onto the more important matter for Houston Texan fans, and a sign that our little franchise is, at the very least, going through football puberty, Andre Johnson becomes the first REAL Houston Texan to join the ballot, eligible for the first time since he retired following the 2016 season. Yeah, short timers like Ed Reed have been inducted into the Hall, and two season Texan Vince Wilfork joins Johnson as a first timer in 2022, but Andre Johnson is one of two players who are the face of this franchise's short history. The other is J.J. Watt, who is a lock to walk into Canton five years after he eventually retires.
Here is the group joining Johnson as first time eligible players:
Players eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time in 2022 include DeMarcus Ware, Devin Hester, Steve Smith Sr., Robert Mathis, Andre Johnson, Vince Wilfork, Anquan Boldin.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 7, 2021
So what are Johnson's chances for induction, either in 2022 or eventually? I would say they are anywhere from decent to very good. Let's look at the "case for" and the "case against," understanding that ultimately some of this may come down to how persuasive John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, who represents the former Houston players in presenting their cases to the voting committee, can be.
Let's start with the figurative "green check marks" for Johnson. First, in the sheer counting stats of catches and receiving yards, few rise above the 12-year Houston Texan. Here is where he ranks on each of these lists (active players are in BOLD, and current Hall of Famers are denoted with a "+"):
1. Jerry Rice + 1,549
2. Larry Fitzgerald 1,432
3. Tony Gonzalez+ 1,325
4. Jason Witten 1,228
5. Marvin Harrison+ 1,102
6. Cris Carter + 1,101
7. Tim Brown+ 1,094
8. Terrell Owens+ 1,078
9. Anquan Boldin 1,076
10. Reggie Wayne 1,070
11. Andre Johnson 1,062
12. Steve Smith 1,031
ALL-TIME RECEIVING YARDS
1. Jerry Rice + 22,895
2. Larry Fitzgerald 17,492
3. Terrell Owens+ 15,934
4. Randy Moss+ 15,292
5. Isaac Bruce+ 15,208
6. Tony Gonzalez+ 15,127
7. Tim Brown+ 14,934
8. Steve Smith 14,731
9. Marvin Harrison+ 14,580
10. Reggie Wayne 14,345
11. Andre Johnson 14,185
12. James Lofton+ 14,004
13. Cris Carter + 13,899
14. Anquan Boldin 13,779
I cut these lists off at points where I made sure they captured where Steve Smith and Anquan Boldin ranked, as well as Johnson. If anything, it illustrates what a fantastic debate should ensue behind those closed doors. My personal primary criteria for Hall of Fame consideration is an affirmative answer to the question "Were you one of the small handful of truly dominant players at your position for six or seven years?"
By that criteria, Andre Johnson is not only a firm "YES", but he is the firmest "YES" of the three wide receivers on this list of newly eligible players. Johnson made seven Pro Bowls and was named first team All Pro twice. Smith was named to five Pro Bowls and was named first-team All Pro twice (once as a return specialist). Boldin made three Pro Bowls and was never named All Pro.
Just as a point of observation, Calvin Johnson getting in on his first try should bode well for Andre Johnson, as the two have very similar career arcs, in everything from quality of teams they played for to actual physical stature. That brings me to the only real negative for Andre Johnson, which is that he only played in four playoff games his whole career, That's not really his fault, and again, if Calvin Johnson getting in on the first ballot is any indication, the voters shouldn't hold team performance against Andre Johnson.
Here's hoping we all get to plan a nice trip to Canton in 2022!
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