By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Nano-seconds after wide receiver Andre Johnson announced his retirement this week, there were the predictable calls for his Hall-of-Fame enshrinement. And why not? He was a top-10 receiver in career yards and catches, so it follows that he must be … should be … on the short list for Canton.
Except he’s not.
That’s not to say Johnson isn’t in the conversation. I imagine he will be when his name comes up in 2022. But to say “his next stop is the Hall of Fame”– which former GM Charley Casserly did on NFL.com – is premature and presumptuous.
That’s not a knock on Casserly. He’s smart, knows personnel and is someone whose opinion I value. But I also understand where he’s coming from: He was the Houston GM who made Andre Johnson the Texans’ first-round draft choice in 2003, and Johnson responded by setting a spate of franchise records.
And that’s great.
Except Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt set records in St. Louis, too, and I don’t see their busts in Canton. Not yet anyway. In fact, neither has been a finalist in the two years they’ve been eligible.
Yet Bruce has more touchdowns (91) than Johnson (70). So does Holt (74). And so do 37 others, including Nat Moore, Art Powell, Joey Galloway and Andre Rison. Their busts aren’t in Canton, either, and they’re on nobody’s short list.
Andre Johnson shouldn’t be, either.
Look, did he produce big numbers in a 14-year career? Yes. But this isn’t the Fantasy Football Hall of Fame. Plus, how meaningful were those numbers? Tell me the signature catches he made to lead the Texans to championships or Super Bowl rings … and you can’t. Because there weren’t any.
Bruce and Holt played in two Super Bowls, and Bruce won Super Bowl XXXIV with a 73-yard catch in the final two minutes. Furthermore, he scored on 8.9 percent of his receptions during his career, while Holt scored on 8.0. Andre Johnson? He scored on 6.6.
Yes, he ranks ninth in career receptions, just behind Reggie Wayne, while Bruce ranks 12th. But Johnson’s ninth-place standing is about to change because Jason Witten and Anquan Boldin are closing fast. You want to make them dead-bolt cinches for the Hall, too?
Now let’s move on to career yardage leaders, where Johnson is 10th, behind Wayne (8th) and Steve Smith (ninth). Wayne won one Super Bowl and appeared in two, while Smith was a Super Bowl runnerup in 2003 when he took command of the playoffs – with 404 yards receiving and three TDs in four games.
Now with the Ravens, Smith appeared in 11 playoff contests and produced nine touchdowns, and, yeah, that’s what I call meaningful. Johnson appeared in four playoff games. He had one touchdown catch.
Then there’s this: Andre Johnson wasn’t an all-decade choice. Torry Holt was. He was also a Super Bowl winner. But he can’t get past the top 25 candidates for the Hall.
Former Dallas star Drew Pearson was an all-decade choice, too, and he not only made the original “Hail Mary” catch to stun Minnesota in the 1975 playoffs; he helped push the Cowboys to three Super Bowls and one Lombardi Trophy. Bu, like Holt, hasn’t been a Hall-of-Fame finalist.
Why does that matter? Because, like it or not, all-decade choices and championships matter. The overwhelming majority of players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame have one or the other … or both. And Andre Johnson has neither.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t worthy of Hall-of-Fame consideration because he is. But his chances of making it … especially in an era of inflated passing and receiving numbers … aren’t as certain as some would have you believe. Because if you’re going to put him in Canton, he has to line up behind Bruce, Holt, Wayne, Hines Ward, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson, and those are just the players from the past decade.
Now throw in candidates like, say, Henry Ellard, Sterling Sharpe, Drew Pearson and Cliff Branch. Maybe Stanley Morgan. For that matter, add seniors like Bill Groman, Harold Carmichael, Charlie Henningan, Gary Collins and Mac Speedie. They’ve been shut out of the Hall, and for no apparent reason. So don’t tell me that Andre Johnson belongs when we can’t get those guys in.
Granted, he made a lot of catches for a lot of yards, but so did Wes Welker. Johnson was a four-time All-Pro. So was Welker. Johnson led the league twice in receiving yards. Welker led it three times in receptions. Johnson had seven 1,000-yard seasons. Welker had five. Johnson averaged 6.3 catches in four playoff games. Welker averaged 7.2 in 12. Johnson never made it to a Super Bowl or conference championship games. Welker did, pulling down 26 passes in three Super Bowls – or an average of 8.7 per – and scoring twice.
But I don’t hear anyone say Wes Welker’s next stop is the Hall of Fame. So why is Andre Johnson supposed to be an automatic choice? He may get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but my guess is that — if that happens — it’s only after a long, long wait.
(Andre Johnson photos courtesy of the Houston Texans)