Andre Johnson Is Wide Open.
Andre Johnson was the first great player in the history of the Houston Texans, and he will forever be this big ol' heart's favorite. He was selected third overall by Houston to be paired with crappy young quarterback David Carr because the Detroit Lions decided to pair their crappy young quarterback Joey Harrington with Charles Rogers. Rogers went on to play 15 games, catch 36 passes for 440 yards, and score 4 touchdowns. Rogers' longest completion was for 35 yards, and his career approximate value was 4. Andre Johnson started 169 games for Houston, caught 1,012 passes for 13,597 yards, scored 64 touchdowns, and had an approximate value of 120 in a Texan uniform.
In the all-time ranks, Johnson is currently 10th in receiving yards, 9th in receptions, 15th in receiving yards per game, and 40th in touchdown receptions. He will eventually be bronzed, plated, and on display in Canton, Ohio. Partly because of his numbers and being one of the best receivers of his generation, and the other being the first Hall of Fame worthy player in this franchise's history, which will pour pathos into the voters' bellies.
Despite the numbers and the all-time ranks. Andre Johnson's career will be remembered for frustration. He was so kittening good. He caught passes from so many kitteny quarterbacks. Johnson caught a pass from Derek Carr, Tony Banks, Dave Ragone, Sage Rosenfels, Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates, Jake Delhomme, Case Keenum, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Matt Hasselbeck, Andrew Luck, Charlie Whitehurst, Ryan Lindley, Josh Freeman, and Marcus Mariota. Matt Schaub was the only one of this bunch who had an above average season throwing him the ball. When Johnson left for Indianapolis and signed with a great quarterback to chase a ring, said great quarterback (Andrew Luck) had his body broken, and Johnson again was stuck on another bad football team. The rest of this bunch is a bouquet of decay, a coagulation of has-beens or never-weres. And still, regardless of it all, Andre Johnson still got open, he still made catches, and he still managed to find his way in the top tens of the all-time leader boards.
Texans fans will remember him for skittering off of Cardinals' defenders, catching a fade down the left sideline for a touchdown against the Bengals in Houston's first playoff game that was nine years in the making, a game-winning screen pass in that wild game against Jacksonville in 2012 that Matt Schaub never recovered from, and for so many other things that occurred over the twelve years he spent with them.
These memories are solipsistic. Everyone else who didn't watch him play once a week will see the accumulation of his numbers and remember him for beating up DJ Pauly D look alike Cortland Finnegan. It was a play of ultimate frustration. Consecutive plays of helmet grabbing and years of jarring culminated with Johnson ripping Innegan's helmet off and landing two haymakers to raucous cheers. All of those other great plays won't be thought of by the majority. They will think about Andre punching another man instead of catching footballs.
That was Andre Johnson's career. He played with bad quarterbacks on bad teams. Even when things broke right, they never fully worked out. In 2011, Matt Schaub had his foot gnawed on by Albert Hanyesworth during a meaningless quarterback sneak that left Andre catching passes from T.J. Yates and ending all hopes of a Super Bowl run. In 2012, Schaub fell off in the second half and the Texans lost to New England in the divisional round, thanks to Barrett Ruud covering Aaron Hernandez and other sad things like that. In 2015, Andre was cut by the only team he'd ever known, signed with the Colts to chase a ring and play with a real quarterback again, was hated by Texans fans despite him giving everything to years of bad teams, and ended the season catching passes from Josh Freeman, not Andrew Luck.
He never had a signature play. There was never a really meaningful dominant performance that everyone will remember. He just glided past defensive backs with perfect and precise routes, only to hang his head, thanks to one-hoppers and overthrows, led-too-fars, and uncatchable reach-backs. There was so much more than two playoff appearances, a few league leading seasons, and landing in the top ten in receptions and yards that could have come from his career. The universe never fully clicked together for Andre Johnson football-wise. His career was brilliance mired in frustration.
For me, Andre Johnson comes down to a handful of memories that flash through my brain as though lit by a strobe light.
The 4th-and-eternity effort with less than a minute to go, with his coach and his QB's jobs on the line against Miami in 2008, when he fought through double coverage to bring down a catch while climbing over a defender.
The 4th-and-ten jump ball against Washington with two minutes left that sent the game into overtime.
That time that he scattered Cardinals defenders like bowling pins on the way to the end zone.
When he tipped the ball to himself to score against the Titans.
I could go on.
In the end, just like so much of the Texans' history, our experience with Andre Johnson will always be tinged with more than a little frustration. Not frustration at the way he left the franchise, but frustration that such a sublimely skilled, hard-working athlete and all-around good human being could never achieve more thanks to a wretched combination of bad luck and incompetence.
Good luck Andre and thanks for all you did for the Texans. I look forward to seeing your bust in Canton in a few years' time.
Andre Johnson "memberberries" off the top of my head (apologies to those not familiar with the South Park storyline)...
Member? Member the 4th down HEAVILY CONTESTED grab at home against Miami where he extended the game, and it eventually led to a Matt Schaub design draw run for the game winning touchdown? Member??!?!
Member? Member when he angrily stormed off the field at home against Oakland?
Member when Andre caught that WR screen at home against Jacksonville to win the game in what might be the single successful WR screen of the Kubiak era?
Member Cortland Finnegan?!?
Member uh... him playing for the Colts and Titans?
Okay, I can't do this anymore.
FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!
I love Andre Johnson. And not for the reason you're probably thinking.
I grew up a huge NFL fan in the 70s and 80s when football players were all the Mean Joe Greens who would give a kid their jersey in exchange for a moment of kindness. The age when pro ballers were real role models, the kind of guys parents wanted their kids to look up to as examples of how men should act.
These days, when you have players constantly in the headlines for drug abuse, domestic abuse and all sorts of other things no decent parent would ever want their kids doing, Andre Johnson bucked the trend.
He took what the NFL bestowed upon him in exchange for his God-given talent and hard work and used that to give back to the world around him. Taking children who might not otherwise have a Christmas to Toys R Us and spending more than most people make in a year on those kids in under an hour.
Focusing on his craft, striving to be a better man. Constantly moving towards being that role model of eras gone by.
That's a guy I want my son to grow up to be like.
When Andre Johnson left Houston, the fan in me was heartbroken. The father in me felt for the kids in H-Town who wouldn't have Uncle Andre around to show them the way. Like any true hero, Andre may have gone to play for the baby horses, but he still gave of himself to the kids in Space City. He just couldn't contain the hero and role model within himself.
God bless you, Andre. The NFL, and the world, needs more men like you.
He's Just The Best.
When I was in grad school, I was afforded the opportunity to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. It remains one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and one I reminisce about frequently. The climb up Kilimanjaro is not technical, so any reasonably fit non-climber can reach the summit in about four and a half days before turning around and making the day and a half journey back down. I recall as we were approaching the end, filled with this newfound energy boost (i.e. oxygen), a couple of friends and I decided to run the final six kilometers or so. As I ran, I remember noticing a foul stench and thinking about how this six days without a shower was making my buddies stink real bad. I then glanced around only to notice that I was alone--one friend a hundred yards or so ahead of me, and one a hundred or so back. That stink was me.
Later, as we finally made our way back to our hotel, we took much needed showers, floated in the pool, and ate a normal sit-down meal for the first time in a week. Though just a hotel shower and spaghetti bolognese, it made for a memorable afternoon after being deprived such luxuries for for the past few days.
Oddly enough, that experience is a fitting metaphor for Andre Johnson's career as a Texan. His presence, at a time otherwise defined by stink and a dearth of excitement, should eclipse any individual on-the-field moment. He brought respectability to an expansion club that desperately needed it. He carried himself in a way that made you proud to look up to him not just as a football player, but as a human being. His career should transcend that of other great receivers simply because of the context in which it transpired.
I believe it's a mistake to try and view Johnson's career by looking solely at the numbers or plays, without stepping back and considering the larger picture of what his presence meant. Consider this: Andre Johnson ranks in the top 10 for most receiving yards and receptions all-time. Yet, for his first four years he had to catch those passes from David Freaking Carr, and for the last two (in Houston at least... we'll pretend that this year and last didn't happen) from Ryan Fitzpatrick and Meltdown Matt Shaub. For his first seven years he had to hope that the likes of Dominick Williams, Ron Dayne, and Steve Slaton could keep secondaries honest (insert "Thank You, Arian Foster" here).
Andre Johnson suffered the indignity of TWO 2-14 seasons. His was a career wasted by poor management, weak roster construction, and brutal on-field execution. Looking back on his career right now, I feel... well... bad, to be honest. He showed this team nothing but loyalty and respect, and was rewarded with false hopes and broken promises.
In some weird way, I feel like I let him down. As if me - some dumb fan who once blogged about him - could have done better by him. I mean, it's not as if I could have tried harder and made his career more successful, but for a long stretch of time, I clung to him as the only hope for this team. I feel as if he carried our dreams on his shoulders, never complained, and was never rewarded. I wish I could do something to let him know how thankful I, and I assume many of you, are, but alas, this is it.
I will forever remember the great plays (the TD catch against Arizona, the late game heroics against Miami, the self-tipped TD against Tennessee), but even more so, I will remember the fact that though he played on a team that just spent a week in Africa without a shower, he came out smelling like roses.
I only hope that one day, if this franchise ever does win the big one, that they can find a way to create a diamond #80 ring to finally give that man what he deserves (that, and that we don't one day have to write this same thing about J.J. Watt).
There's not a whole lot I can really say. Back when the Texans decided to cut Andre Johnson, I wrote about how "...a man I have never met...has been someone I cared far too much about for one-third of my life." Despite his brief and unsuccessful pit stops in Indianapolis and Nashville, I remain a gigantic fan of his. I'm incredibly thankful that I got to watch him perform at the level he performed at for a dozen freaking years.
The Texans never won a Super Bowl while Andre Johnson played here. They never even appeared in a conference championship game. For nearly all of his time in Houston, the Texans vacillated between being bad and mediocre. Yet there's no doubt that 'Dre belongs in the pantheon of Houston sports legends. Few athletes ever, even briefly, approach the excellence Andre Johnson routinely achieved year in and year out.
Andre Johnson was special. Andre Johnson was the Houston Texans. He still is.
In his career with Houston, Andre Johnson has 1,012 passes on 1,640 targets for a total of 13,597 yards with 64 TDs from 11 different QBs (he dodged the Brian Hoyer bullet).
This team really didn't deserve him, but boy was it fun to watch him.
Andre Johnson was the first football player I ever truly loved. In the dark times of early Texans history, he was the one thing this fan base could hang their hats on. Everyone knew the ball was going to him, and yet nobody ever seemed to be able to stop it from happening. Andre in his prime is the greatest receiver I have ever seen play the sport, and perhaps ever *will* see play the sport. I am of course sad to see his career come to an end, but words cannot express how grateful I am to have seen him play with my own two eyes.
Thanks for the memories, Andre. Your statue outside of NRG is already in the works, I'm sure.
In some respects, I'm kind of amazed to this day that we got to watch Andre Johnson play in a Texans uniform at all. After all, if you really think about it, he's the one pick that Charley Casserly did not totally screw up. There were any number of players that he could have easily squandered that pick on, but Casserly didn't. He didn't and because of that, I and other Texans fans got to watch #80 make spectacular catches, outrun pursuers, and bowl over blockers in ways that would send happy endorphins flowing throughout my system whenever he played.
I will always remember looking forward to Andre Johnson giving kids 80 seconds to run through a toy store to grab whatever they wanted and he footed the bill. I never got a dime out of it, nor knew anybody who participated in the toy run, but I looked forward to it because it meant Andre Johnson was still our guy, that he was as much a part of Houston as the San Jacinto Memorial.
But I will always feel a weird, and ridiculous, pang of sadness for him whenever I see a highlight of his. For every touchdown catch he made, there were two or three David Carr wounded ducks that never made it to him. For every miraculous catch, there was a boneheaded coaching decision by Dom Capers, Gary Kubiak, or Bill O'Brien to spoil it. For every playoff run the Texans made, there was a Matt Schaub injury to keep Johnson from that Super Bowl ring he so rightfully deserves.
Andre's career was truly the sweet and sour that is playing in the NFL. Talent like his doesn't come along often, so when it does, you have to filter out the bad coaching, the atrocious quarterbacks, and all the horrific, gut-wrenching losses to focus on the good, as we Texans have had to do so many times over the years. I hope that when the Texans do win their Super Bowl that they'll have the good sense to mail Andre Johnson a ring as both a thank you for his years of service and a long overdue apology for not getting him one sooner.
Honestly, there's not a thing that's been said on this post that either hasn't already been said or been said better by somebody else. So I will simply let this do the talking for me:
I Really Didn't Want To Cry Today.