Editor’s note: Brien is a well-traveled Houstonian and Army Combat Veteran with an extremely wide range of talents and interests including the NFL (Packers), Irish History, and writing. Follow him on twitter @ODonalsVanguard
By BRIEN O’DONAL
It’s been a big week for long time Texans fans. The news came down Monday that Andre Johnson would be signing a one day contract to retire as a Houston Texan. Yesterday he did so in an emotional press conference. In my opinion he is the greatest player in the team’s history. J.J. Watt is making his case for that spot, but his career is not yet over so Johnson gets the nod. Those of us who have lived in Houston for the length of Johnson’s career know how dynamic he was as a player. The rest of the NFL knows it too. Now that he has retired the talk will obviously turn toward his candidacy for the Hall of Fame. Despite his great career and great numbers he is considered a borderline candidate. It’s easy for me to see why when I look at his statistics and compare them to how successful his teams were when he was on the field. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t know for sure and I don’t think anyone can come close to knowing for sure until the vote is actually counted.
Let’s figure this all out together. Here are the career numbers: 1,062 receptions, (No. 11 all time); 14,185 receiving yards, (No. 11 all time); 70 receiving touchdowns, (tied for No. 40 all time). All in all that’s not a bad career. If I saw that most of the receivers above him in yards and receptions were either in the Hall already or certainly on their way I would assume he was set for enshrinement. When you see that in 14 years he had five seasons with over 100 receptions and seven seasons over 1,000 yards you would know that a big chunk of his career was spent being one of the best in the game. Except for two things: those pesky touchdown stats and a lack of any real signature moment. I think it’s mostly the latter that will deny or delay his entry.
It’s easy to look at statistics and all time rankings and say yeah, he deserves a spot. The truth behind nearly every hall of famer are those signature moments when they performed above and beyond to carry their team in crucial moments; namely playoff games. Consider a guy like Andre Reed, who was dynamic during those 4 Super Bowl runs by the Bills. Lynn Swann when the Steelers were the best team of the 70’s. Neither of those guys are in the top 15 in career receiving stats but the highlights of them when they were needed most shows up more than the numbers. The fact of the matter is that Johnson’s one touchdown in four playoff games is not exactly going to wow the Hall of Fame voters. I know he can’t be entirely responsible for his team’s success; Reed and Swann had great teams around them, but if he was the best player on his team in the playoffs he should have looked like it. Whether fans like it or not, all his great seasons did not translate to the kind of success that Hall of Fame voters are looking for.
Do I think Andre Johnson deserves to be in Canton? Yes. His numbers demonstrate that he was one of the most dominant players at his position during a large stretch of his career. Do I think he will get in? Eventually. Until recently it seemed difficult for wide receivers to get in and that created a slight backlog that will take some time to clear out. Off the top of my head I can think of Terrell Owens, Isaac Bruce, Randy Moss, and Tony Gonzalez who should all get in before him. That list will grow larger as more players like Larry Fitzgerald and Reggie Wayne become eligible. Without that signature moment to strengthen his case it may take quite awhile for him to finally get the votes. Texans fans will just have to be patient and wait for as long as it takes.
I’m certain that sometime this season the Texans will do something to celebrate Andre Johnson at a game. Fans should take the moment to reflect on the good times they got from watching him play. They should take stock of what they saw on the field and know that despite any Hall of Fame outcome, they witnessed greatness. Some things you just know for yourself and you don’t need anyone else to validate it for you.