Calvin Johnson is only 3/4 done

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys

All available signs indicate that Calvin Johnson’s NFL career is over. He’s borne a heavy burden for the Detroit Lions for nine seasons, during which he has performed at historically great levels, although injuries have limited his (still above-average) production in recent seasons. Nevertheless, outside of Johnson’s reportedly expressed desire to walk away from the game, there is nothing to suggest that, if he decided to continue his career, he would not continue to play at a very high level.

In fact, FiveThirtyEight’s projections show that if Johnson, who has compiled 11,619 receiving yards, stayed in the game, he could pull down an additional 4,355:

futurereceivingyds

That would account for twenty-seven-percent of his projected total receiving yards, and if Johnson were to reach that projected total of 15,974 yards, he would finish as the number two all-time receiver, just ahead of Terrell Owens’ 15,934, though still well behind Jerry Rice’s absurd 22,895. (So long as we’re projecting, it’s worth noting, as the article does, that Larry Fitzgerald (17,323) and Brandon Marshall (16,323) both project to finish ahead of Johnson’s projected mark.)

These projections, like many sports projections, are based in significant part on the performance arcs of past players. This is a reasonable methodological approach, and it’s probably the best and most widely used for these purposes. It has a few blind spots that are worth keeping in mind, however. One of those is the health of the individual player. There is no doubt that today’s players take their health and well-being more seriously and with a broader perspective than those of previous generations, including Rice’s. (There always will be exceptions, of course.) The backward-looking orientation of these projections mean that they will miss both new (or effectively hidden) injuries to the specific player, as well as new general trends regarding health and wellness, both of which could limit Johnson’s future production. So too, of course, could his desire to stop playing entirely. Also not directly included are rule changes and general changes in strategy, and here, those– rules that favor passing offense and a strategic shift to emphasize passing in offensive schemes– actually could push Johnson’s actual future output above his projected total.

Still, Johnson is thirty years old, he’s been banged up in each of his last few seasons, and his team’s present trajectory fairly is categorized as stagnant. As the FiveThirtyEight article reasonably concluded, “if Johnson ultimately decides to leave, good for him. If he ultimately decides to stay, good for football.” For fans, sports always will, in relatively equal parts, be about what was and what could be, and, as fun and important as imagining and projecting the sports future is, it’s just as important to realize what we have and have had play out before our eyes. Luckily for us, Johnson made the latter very easy and very enjoyable.

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Mark 2011 as the year the Lord took on NFL player contracts

It is said that the Lord works in mysterious ways, but this summer, He has been stepping out a bit more, seemingly bearing a new cross for those who praise Him. The Almighty has tackled public works projects before– the Great Flood, liberation of his people from bondage in Egypt, urban renewal in cities like Sodom and Gomorrah, descending to Earth in human form, etc.– but this campaign feels different, perhaps because of its apparently limited, if no less public, scope. Mark 2011 as the year the Ancient of Days took on high-profile NFL player contracts.

Yahweh’s first target was in the Arizona desert, where He helped Larry Fitzgerald secure an eight-year, $120 million deal with the Cardinals. After Fitzgerald’s new contract became public, Chris Johnson, holdout running back for the Tennessee Titans, praised the Everlasting Father for His accomplishment: “Congrats to Larry Fitzgerald. God is good.” Indeed.

Luke, the Gospel writer, tells us that there is more rejoicing in Heaven when one sinner repents than there is for ninety-nine other righteous people who need not repent, and so it should come as no surprise that the Wonderful Counselor would take the case of the once-disgraced, now-redeemed Michael Vick (f.k.a. Ron Mexico). Just this week in the City of Brotherly Love, Vick signed what his head coach called “a beautiful contract,” which may or may not be worth $100 million. In response, Vick said, “I want to thank God for the opportunity that I’ve been presented.” And so we can assume he did.

Numerically, if there’s a digit more biblically favored than four or seven, it would have to be three, and so we should expect Elohim to be involved in at least one more blockbuster deal before the season starts next week, and the smart talents are on Johnson himself. Johnson believes the Titans should compensate him on a scale comparable to the highest-paid players in the league, and not merely as the highest-paid at his position as the team has offered to do. On Wednesday, Johnson said, “I like to thank everyone who have me in their prayers thru my situation, it’s much needed.” It just might be.

Can the Holy Spirit reach this man on behalf of Chris Johnson?