(Photos courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Calvin Johnson’s probably not going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
At least, that’s the opinion of Hall-of-Fame receiver Lynn Swann, who recently said he doesn’t see Megatron ticketed for Canton because, as he put it, “he didn’t lift his team.” Johnson’s team is the Detroit Lions, and during his nine seasons with them they’ve gone to the playoffs twice, failing to win once.
So Swann is right about the Lions. But he’s wrong about everything else. In fact, at this point, my advice to Swann on this subject would be as simple as it is direct.
Stop talking about the Hall and stop talking about Megatron. It took Swann 14 years to reach Canton, and he was lucky to make it. So he’s not exactly in a position to start closing the doors on others – especially someone of Johnson’s talent.
All the guy’s done is set a single-season record for yards receiving and most consecutive 100-yard games (8), become the fastest to reach 10,000 yards receiving (115 games), lead the league once in catches and touchdowns and twice in yards receiving and average nearly 16 yards per catch. Plus, he tied Michael Irvin’s single-season record for most 100-yard games (11) and Lance Alworth’s career mark for most 200-yard games (5) and set a Lions’ single-game standard with 329 yards receiving in 2014, the second-best total in NFL history.
In short, he’s been a load.
Granted, the Lions have stunk. But that’s precisely why Megatron will be considered Hall-of-Fame worthy. He did everything he could to lift one of the league’s bottom feeders. When he excelled so did his team, and you can look it up. When Detroit reached the playoffs for the first time in 2011, it was Johnson who did the heavy lifting – with a career-best 16 touchdowns and 1,681 yards.
And it was Johnson who excelled in the Lions’ playoff loss to New Orleans, with 12 catches for a franchise playoff-record 211 yards and two touchdowns. And those 211 yards? Another franchise record.
OK, so the Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1992, but don’t blame Calvin Johnson. Blame Matt Millen. He’s the CEO who sabotaged the franchise and had Detroit in search of a bailout, going 31-81 in his tenure there – one of the worst seven-year records in league history. Millen made bad draft picks and bad decisions, but he got one right in Calvin Johnson.
He’s not only the best receiver in Detroit Lions’ history. He’s one of their best players. Period.
I can’t imagine where Detroit would be without him, but I can imagine where he might wind up … and it’s not in a Super Bowl. It’s Canton. It’s where the game’s best and brightest belong, and Calvin Johnson fits both descriptions. He’s a good teammate and a great player, and that combination sells at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And that’s what baffles me about Swann’s comments. He was a good teammate and a great player, too, but he had the benefit of playing on one of the greatest teams ever – a Pittsburgh Steelers club that not only won four Super Bowls but put nine of its players during that era, as well as its head coach, in the Hall.
Yes, Lynn Swann lifted those teams, but he had plenty of help. Terry Bradshaw, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris, Mel Blount and Jack Ham all were elected to the Hall in their first years of eligibility, while Mike Webster was chosen in his second. Other than Megatron, tell me who in the past 10 years in Detroit is Hall-of-Fame worthy.
I thought so.
Calvin Johnson is a rare talent who made his team better, not worse, and that’s where Hall-of-Fame conversations start. Lynn Swann may think it “would be difficult for Calvin Johnson to be considered a Hall of Famer,” but I don’t. I think it’ll be easy.