I don't even know where to start.
Today is March 2, 2015. Andre Johnson became a Houston Texan on April 26, 2003, right after the Detroit Lions selected Charles Rogers (WR--Michigan State) and immediately before the New York Jets selected Dewayne Robertson (DT--Kentucky). 'Dre was joined in that Houston Texans draft class by Bennie Joppru (TE--Michigan), Antwan Peek (LB--Cincinnati), Seth Wand (OT--Northwest Missouri State), Dave Ragone (QB--Louisville), Domanick Davis (RB--LSU), Drew Henson (QB--Michigan), Keith Wright (DT--Missouri), Curry Burns (DB--Louisville), and Chance Pearce (LS--Texas A&M).
It's amusing to look at those names now. I suppose part (all?) of the reason Texans fans can laugh is that Andre Johnson has quite simply, all by his lonesome, made it permissible to laugh. That draft class, one of far too many by Charley Casserly, was a complete disaster. Somehow, 'Dre made it tolerable. All by himself. That's how special he was. How special he still is. Off the field, too.
For many years, far more than any reasonable person who followed the team would like to admit, Andre Johnson was
the only one of the only reasons to watch the Houston Texans. You'd watch him play, and you would know the situation wasn't completely hopeless. That mattered, especially for a team that gainfully employed David Carr as its starting quarterback until 2007 and failed to achieve its first winning season until 2009 ('Dre's seventh [7th!] year in the league).
When the Texans finally managed to qualify for the NFL Playoffs in 2011, Texans fans were ecstatic. For themselves, yeah. For the city, of course. But also for Andre Freaking Johnson. He suffered through the ignominy of defeat, year after year, just like the rest of us.
No player deserves a playoff berth. Except 'Dre. He deserved it. He earned it. He showed up for work, day after day, week after week, season after season, through the lean times, and he gave all of us a reason to believe we had a shot someday. That we weren't totally doomed, because we had a total freak lining up wearing steel blue, battle red, and/or liberty white. More than any other player, he justified the foolishness of Texans fandom. For a handful of years, you could argue that Andre Johnson was the best wide receiver in football. And I did.
With the exception of rare moments of overflowing pride or poor attempts at booze-addled humor, I do my best to minimize the impact the Texans have on my personal life. I suppose what I'm typing now would fit into both the preceding categories, so feel free to skip this next part.
I was 24 years old when the Texans drafted Andre Johnson. I will be 36 years old in short order. If my math is right (and it's probably not, what with the liberal arts major and disturbing inability to perform functional arithmetic after the fifth grade and all), Andre Johnson, a man I have never met, has been someone I cared far too much about for one-third of my life. That is sobering.
/orders another drink
When I think back on what's happened in my life over the last 12 years, it's dizzying. I finished trade school, started a career, helped start a blog, met a woman who would tolerate my eccentricity and/or sized up her romantic options as limited enough to marry me, bought a house, got a dog, changed jobs/career paths, married said woman with questionable judgment, had a son, had a daughter, and saw Bill O'Brien lead the Texans to a 9-7 campaign after inheriting a 2-14 team. That's a lot of stuff, and Andre Johnson was (sort of) there for all of it.
While Andre Johnson's career in Houston was not without the occasional hiccup (e.g., here or here), I cannot muster anything but total admiration and blinding nostalgia for 'Dre's time as a Texan. If it really is coming to an end (and who knows...sometimes things change, especially if you want to believe the speaker meant what he said when he participated in this profile), I am melancholy and infinitely sad.
If I look at things objectively, not paying Andre Johnson $10,500,000.00 in 2015 (with a $16,144,583.00 cap figure) is a wise move. If I look at things with some semblance of emotion (you know, like a normal person), there probably isn't a big enough cap hit to merit me happily accepting a world that sees Andre Johnson don another team's uniform.
That's a luxury we have as fans. Much as we like to play armchair general managers/capologists, we don't have to make the tough decisions. Parting ways with Andre Johnson, assuming the sides could not or did not want to agree to a reduced salary/cap figure, is likely the right decision from a long-term organizational perspective, considering DeAndre Hopkins' ascendance. But it doesn't make the reality of rooting for the Texans without the greatest player in franchise history any easier.
I will never wish Andre Johnson anything but success. Wherever he continues his career, I hope he wins. I hope he wins the Super Bowl that evaded him in Houston. I cannot thank him enough for the last 12 years, and he will always be the player I most associate with my Texans fandom. That's a generational thing, as I'm sure many will feel the same way about J.J. Watt or, eventually, my son, should you jackals be lucky enough to see him choose a career in football instead of becoming the WORLD'S GREATEST (FILL IN THE BLANK).
The Houston Texans without Andre Johnson will go on. But it won't be the same. A 'Dre-less Texans squad was always inevitable. That doesn't make it any easier to accept, especially tonight.
Thank you, 'Dre. No matter where your career takes you, you will always be a Texan, and I look forward to seeing you become the first player in Houston Texans history to be enshrined in Canton. We won't forget.