“I’ve been thinking about things this offseason, and I just kind of wonder sometimes, ‘Is this still the place for me? It’s just something I’m just thinking about.” (per the Houston Chronicle)
It was a gut punch to all Texans’ fans. The words of the most powerful player in franchise history reached into our bodies and pulled out our souls. The heart of the Houston Texans wants out.
If you don’t know, I am a diehard Texans’ fan. When you take a look at my profile picture, you will notice I am in a number 80 jersey. That is because Andre Johnson is not just the greatest Texan ever, he is my favorite football player to ever step on the field. Andre Johnson isn’t just the Texans’ best wide receiver… Andre Johnson is the Texans.
Johnson was drafted third overall in the 2003 NFL Draft. It was the Houston Texans’ second year, and they must have felt that they had their future locked up. They had passed on Julius Peppers the year before to draft their franchise quarterback in David Carr and now they had his go to man. Boy, were they wrong. Since Andre Johnson has been drafted, the Texans have mustered a 75-101 record. They have seen just three winning seasons in Johnson’s 11-year tenure and have made it to the playoffs in a mere two of those years. Were it not for the Cincinnati Bungles, we Texans fans may have never seen a playoff victory. Thank God for Marvin Jones, huh?
Johnson has played under two awful head coaches in Dom Capers and Gary Kubiak and has never been given much to work with on offense. Matt Shaub proved to be a great game manager, but he was never in the conversation of the elite NFL quarterbacks. Johnson also never had a serious threat opposite him at wide receiver to take any pressure off of him. Kevin Walter was serviceable, but every Texans fan knows that Walter was one of the elite blocking receivers in the NFL. He was there to take pressure off of Arian Foster, not Andre. And despite taking throws from David Carr, Matt Shaub, Sage Rosenfels, TJ Yates, Case Keenum, Tony Banks, and a few other forgettable names, Andre Johnson still managed to lead the NFL in receiving yards twice and receptions twice as well. Simply put, Johnson gave everything he had for the lowly Texans. Want further proof? Look at his performance in the Texans’ first playoff game ever. Coming back from an injury, he totally dismantled the Bengals’ secondary, grabbing five receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown to help TJ Yates win Houston its first playoff game 31-10.
Andre is also a big part of Houston. The Andre Johnson Foundation has been giving the youth he encounters a happier life. He continually dishes out close to twenty grand every Christmas on toy store sprees for lucky children. He is a major face in the community.
As hard as it is for a player of Andre Johnson’s caliber to stay loyal to the Texans, it is equally as hard to be a Texans fan. Rick Smith stuck with Kubiak for so long when every beat writer and fan was pleading to take control away from him. That has set the Texans and Andre Johnson’s chances of winning in Houston backwards. I get it that Bill O’Brien is rebuilding this team his way, and that is a step in the right direction. I also think the Texans had an amazing draft. However, we still didn’t get the stud quarterback we needed. The Texans nabbed Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick, which I wanted, yet passed on Derek Carr when he was gift wrapped to them with the first pick in the second round. Bill O’Brien sees something special in Tom Savage and Xavier Su’a-Filo (the guard taken over Carr) is amazing, but there is no way we return to a winning team this season with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helms.
So can you blame Andre for wanting out? He’s a seven time All-Pro, a two time NFL First Teamer, and has the 17th most yards receiving of all time. Doesn’t he deserve a chance to win?
I’ve lived through this before. When I was a kid, I had to watch some of the worst years in the Yankees’ storied history. And while they continued to lose and seemingly get worse and worse with each passing season of the late 80s, I had to watch one of our legends flounder at the expense of his surroundings.
Am I biased? 100%, but from 1984 to 1987, you would be hard pressed to convince me otherwise that Don Mattingly wasn’t only the best Yankee, but the best player in baseball. He was an All-Star every one of those years, won the Gold Glove all four of those years, earned the Silver Slugger Award three of those four years, had one MVP in 1985, and was a legitimate threat to win the Triple Crown all four of those seasons. Unlike Andre Johnson the Yankees never saw the playoffs during Mattingly’s best seasons. They sat back and finished as low as fourth place in some of those years.
Much like Andre, Mattingly did all he could do to lead his team to greatness, and much like the Texans, the Yankees never surrounded him with the most important aspect of his sport: good pitching. Where Andre has never had an elite QB throwing him the ball, Mattingly had to sit by and watch the Dennis Rasmussens, Joe Cowleys, and the mid-40s Niekro brothers pitch while Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst, and Oil Can Boyd were tearing things up in Beantown. The Yankees continually spent their money on aging big bats while keeping faith in their mediocre pitching, just as the Texans have continually overpaid for the Ahman Greens and Eric Moulds over the years.
Mattingly stayed through it all right up until he could barely walk. He was able to hang on and see one playoff series in his final year, the year before the Yankees would win four out of the next five World Series’. Talk about a slap in the face.
So, do I blame Andre for wanting out? No, his frustration is well merited. But do I think he should hang around and finish his career as a Texan? Of course I do. Our generation has certainly seen its fair share of lovable losers. Baseball had Tony Gwynn and Donnie Baseball. The NBA had Patrick Ewing and Sir Charles. The NFL had Barry Sanders, and Sanders had way less to work with than Andre ever had. Scott Mitchell? I’d take Shauby one million out of one million times before I’d watch Scott Mitchell in a Texans’ uniform!
But I get what Andre is saying. He is the consummate professional and the ultimate team player, just as Donnie Baseball was. When it comes to team players, stats don’t matter and trophies do. As I already said, there is no way I think this Texans team can compete for any trophies with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helms.
Inevitably, Andre is amid the ludicrous contract extension he signed through the next two seasons. Not many teams can afford to take on his contract, and most of those that can aren’t contenders. If Andre were to jump ship to someone like the Browns who have already been mentioned, Johnson would lose a lot of credibility. When the Patriots come knocking, and you know they will, it will be interesting to see what the Texans negotiate. The thought of Johnson catching balls from Tom Brady is both exciting and sickening.
So, Andre, if somehow you are reading this, remember the old adage: good guys finish last. The Texans and Houston need you to stick around for a little longer. Crazier things have happened in the NFL. Last season was supposed to be a Texans and Falcons Super Bowl and they COMBINED for six wins. Who’s to say the Texans can’t win the division this year? Their defense is going to be so good that I could probably quarterback the team. Arian Foster will be healthy (we think). And we play the Jaguars and Titans twice a year.
Andre, in the words of the illustrious pop band Double You: “Please don’t go, please don’t go. Don’t goooooooooooooo. Don’t go away.”