By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Marty Mornhinweg knows how to run an offense. What he doesn’t know is how to get to Canton.
Nowhere was that more apparent than when Mornhinweg, the New York Jets’ offensive coordinator, this week labeled running back Chris Johnson “a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” and, yeah, I know what you’re thinking … because I was, too.
It’s not just that Chris Johnson isn’t a first-ballot Hall of Famer. It’s that he’s a no-ballot Hall of Famer … at least for now … and I’m not knocking the guy. It’s just that reaching Canton on your first try is about as rare as the Jets without controversy, which means Chris Johnson has about as much chance of making it to Canton on his first go as he did outrunning a cheetah.
Look, Johnson is an accomplished and durable running back with a productive career. But so was Jamal Lewis, and tell me Lewis is a “first-ballot Hall of Famer” … because he’s not. Like Johnson, he ran for over 2,000 yards in one season. Like Johnson, he was an NFL Offensive Player of the Year. And, like Johnson, he was first-team All-Pro.
But, unlike Johnson, he played for a Super Bowl winner, and, unlike Johnson, he was a member of an All-Decade team.
I don’t hear anyone pumping Jamal Lewis as “first-ballot Hall of Famer,” and that’s not an injustice to Lewis. It’s just the way it is. Same goes for Terrell Davis, another 2K rusher who won a Super Bowl … no, make that two … and not only was a member of an All-Decade team but a league MVP. He was supposed to be a first-ballot cinch, only he wasn’t.
In fact, he’s still waiting for the call.
So why, then, would you characterize a guy who the past three seasons scored a total of 20 touchdowns — or one more than Jamaal Charles in 2013 — and who last year averaged a career-low 3.9 yards per carry as a Hall-of-Fame slam dunk?
Answer: You wouldn’t.
I mean, if Chris Johnson were that magnificent do you honestly think Ken Whisenhunt — a coach who for years searched in vain for a legitimate rushing attack in Arizona — would have let the guy walk? I think you know the answer.
I have no problem with Mornhinweg trying to promote his own back, especially when it’s someone whose per-game rushing average didn’t eclipse 68 yards two of the past three years. Nothing wrong with trying to boost a guy’s confidence. But let’s not be ridiculous, Marty. To say Johnson is someone who upgrades your rushing attack is one thing; to say he’s “a first-ballot Hall of Famer” is downright irresponsible.
Curtis Martin wasn’t one. Neither was Lenny Moore … or Larry Csonka … or John Riggins. Labeling Johnson as “a first-ballot Hall of Famer” not only is wrong; it’s unfair to the guys who actually were first-ballot choices. It makes their achievements less meaningful, and, trust me, getting to Canton in your first year of eligibility is more difficult than navigating rush-hour traffic in Manhattan.
Tom Brady is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Peyton Manning is, too. But Chris Johnson? Please. Someone pass the memo to Marty.