Four weeks into the 2011 NFL Season much is being made of Calvin Johnson’s start (with a healthy Matthew Stafford). He has 24 receptions for 321 yards and 8 touchdowns in the first four games. It was asserted earlier this year by soon to be Hall of Famer Cris Carter that he didn’t have Calvin Johnson (a.k.a. Megatron) in his top 5 NFL receivers until now because he had never had production like this before. I beg to differ. He not only has he had production like this before, but you really couldn’t say that if you realize that there are other things to take into account (or more than meets the eye, if you prefer). This claim apparently got me so riled up that you are going to get over 1,100 words on why this is perposterous! (In addition I will go overboard by going back to the college years and show why he was even underappreciated then!)
The Pro Years –
So first let me debunk some of the production numbers. His current run is 24 receptions for 321 yards and 8 touchdowns in 4 games. Here are 3 stretches in 2008 and 2010 for your review:
18 catches, 390 yards, 4 touchdowns (2008)
25 catches, 360 yards, 4 touchdowns (2008)
24 catches, 387 yards, 7 touchdowns (2010)
So Cris Carter would have only had to look to last year, a Pro Bowl season mind you, to realize that we have seen this before. Now let’s take into account a few other things that have impacted Megatron’s overall numbers:
2007: Missed one full game and two partial games due to injury in his rookie year. He was only a starter for 10 of the games. Jon Kitna was his QB. Still led the team with almost 16 yards per catch and had 4 rec TD’s and 1 rushing TD.
2008: The only team in NFL history to go 0-16. Dan Orlovsky started the majority of games. Kitna started a few. The corpse of Daunte Culpepper started a few. Basically the poo-poo platter of QB’s on a terrible team. So what did Calvin do this year? Out of the 2960 passing yards the team had that season, Johnson had 1331. And out of the 18 passing TD’s Johnson caught 12 of them. He was 5th in receiving yards and 1st in receiving TD’s in the entire NFL.
2009: Injuries bit him again to the tune of missing 2 games (When you are the only asset a team has, opponents try to take you out… just sayin’) on a 2 win team that again started 3 QB’s and none of them for 2/3 of the season. Still, with missing two games he was only 16 yards short of 1,000 for the season (and if you count his 74 rushing yards on 7 carries he was over a thousand). He still led the team in receptions, yards, and TD’s.
2010: He played in 15 of 16 games and was 9th in the NFL in receiving yards with 1120 and tied for 2nd in receiving TD’s with 12. Oh, and he again had to deal with 3 different QB’s who started at least 3 games throwing to him and a running game where the leading rusher had 555 yards. And he was a Pro Bowl starter.
So to Cris Carter I take the uber-juvenile approach and make the form of a W on my head and say “Whatever”.
The College Years –
Calvin’s years at Georgia Tech were respected by folks nationally, but I don’t believe they were fully appreciated for how special they were. This is no ordinary wide receiver.
First, you need to understand Calvin the Engineering student. The summer between his sophomore and junior years he and others in his field were given the opportunity to work on a project to develop environmentally friendly condos a mile from campus or to design a lower cost solar powered dry latrine to convert waste into fertilizer (and thus keep it out of the water supply, helping curtail the spread of disease), produce them and go to Bolivia to install them. Calvin was the very first person to volunteer to go to Bolivia. And when he did he got an, “Are you sure? The other project is right down the street” from the student project advisor and senior research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. He was sure. He wanted to help those less fortunate.
Now, looking at the on-field resume, most people would see the 16.4 yard per catch average over his career along with just shy of 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns and be impressed. They were impressed enough to give him the ACC Player of the Year, Unanimous All-American, and the Biletnikoff award in 2006. To a non-Tech fan this would seem like appreciation enough. But for those who roll with the Ramblin’ Wreck, we know that you have to take into account just how bad his Quarterback was to appreciate how good Megatron was.
All of Calvin’s numbers were despite the fact that his QB over all 3 years was Reggie Ball. A nice enough kid, but one that simply did not get the concept of what Matthew Stafford did last week. Just throw it up and let him go get it!! There were 8 out of 37 games that Ball completed only 2 passes to Johnson, and two of those were against arch-rival Georgia. There were entire halves of games where he didn’t even target him once. On top of that Ball had a career 48.6 completion percentage with 55 interceptions to go with 57 touchdowns. 28 of the 47 touchdowns that Ball threw when he and Calvin were teammates, were to Mr. Johnson. It became clear to Yellow Jacket fans what we had missed out on when Ball was declared academically ineligible before the bowl game of his senior year. Tech’s backup, Taylor Bennett, who didn’t have any starting experience and was in over his head was able to figure out one thing. Just throw it up somewhere near Calvin and he will catch it. He did that to the tune of 9 catches for 186 yards and 2 TD’s against a very good West Virginia team. I can only imagine what his career number would have been if he had someone like Brandon Weedin throwing to him like Justin Blackmon does.
The Tools –
And just because I love the story, let me remind you what he did at the scouting combine prior to being selected with the #2 pick in the NFL Draft.
> He measured in at 6’5″
> He weighed in at 239 lbs (which scared many scouts, assuming he gained weight and wasn’t in his best shape)
> He said he wouldn’t run the 40, but after watching others decided he would. He then had to borrow someone else’s shoes (which were not a perfect fit) and proceeded to run a 4.35 second 40 yard dash!!
> His vertical leap was measured at 47 inches
So in summary, you can say all you want and try to spin it however you want, but there is simply no one like Megatron.