Snap Judgments (cont.)
A couple weeks back, when I wrote a story about how NFL receivers have dominated the news, one potential source I tried to reach was Keyshawn Johnson. As it turned out, Johnson called me back after I had already finished the piece, but that doesn't mean he didn't have anything interesting to say about the state of the NFL's diva position.
No surprise there, as Johnson has been speaking his mind entertainingly since the moment he joined the NFL.
"I know this much,'' Johnson told me. "Back in 1996, I was drafted No. 1 overall [by the Jets]. I was the queen of the ball, the princess, whatever. And all those guys have come after me. I wrote the book on diva receivers. Truly, when you break it all down, I'm the first guy in the last 15 years of receivers who did all that stuff. I threw my helmet to the ground when no one was doing that. I slammed my helmet to the ground and then they changed the rules banning that.''
But Johnson had the good fortune to be drafted and play under Jets head coach Bill Parcells early in his career, and in time, the Tuna taught him how to be a team player even if he never lost his individuality or his penchant for drawing attention to himself at the game's most diva-heavy position.
"It took me two years to figure that out,'' Johnson said. "But eventually I had to admit to myself: 'You had fun with that act for a couple years, kid. But let it go. Now it's time to be a professional, have fun, make money and win games.'''
Johnson said he hasn't been closely following all the offseason storylines involving high-profile receivers this year, but he didn't hold back when I referenced Brandon Marshall's recent request to be traded from Denver.
"Brandon Marshall, what have you ever done?'' Johnson said. "You went to one Pro Bowl, maybe two. You caught a bunch of balls because they threw them to you. Have you even won a playoff game yet? Guys like me and Michael Irvin, we all won rings. Win a ring first and then talk that way.
"He says he doesn't want to play in Denver because he doesn't have a quarterback now that Jay Cutler is in Chicago. Please. When I was with the Jets, our starting quarterbacks were Ray Lucas, Frank Reich, Neil O'Donnell, Glenn Foley, Rick Mirer and Vinny Testaverde. And he's complaining about having to play with Kyle Orton? You should worry about making your quarterback better.''
Johnson serves as an ESPN analyst during the NFL season, and this offseason has been devoting his energies to his new show about decorating on the A&E network: Tackling Design. His opinions apparently never get rusty, no matter what time of year it is.
"I keep seeing where Anquan Boldin wants to be traded from Arizona, or he wants to be paid like Larry Fitzgerald,'' Johnson said. "Anquan, you're a glorified T.J. Houshmandzadeh, so cut it out. They're the same player. You want $11 million? Why don't you take the $8 million they're offering and be happy? You're not Larry Fitzgerald.''
C'mon, Key. Tell us what you really think. Don't hold back.
Boil it all down and I get the feeling that one of the strongest reasons why both Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez have a chance to start early in Detroit and New York this season is due to the success of rookie starters Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco in Atlanta and Baltimore last season.
Would Stafford and Sanchez start simply because of Ryan and Flacco even if they struggled mightily in the preseason? Of course not. But this is a copy-cat league, and Ryan and Flacco opened eyes and minds around the NFL with their winning first-year performances. Don't forget, new Jets head coach Rex Ryan was in Baltimore and saw Flacco's season up close, especially how the rookie fit so well into the Ravens' run-first offense. And new Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, besides having very little to lose in Detroit this season, has never been afraid to think outside the box either.
All that being said, one potentially very significant difference exists between last year's two highest-drafted quarterbacks and this year's, and it can't be over-stated: Ryan and Flacco entered the league as fifth-year seniors. Stafford and Sanchez were underclassmen. History says that very likely will matter.
Even though he said he was retiring after the 2008 season -- as if that really means anything any more -- Willie McGinest told The Sporting News this week that he's getting that itch to play again. Will there be a team willing to scratch that itch? Don't bet against it. With many teams switching to the 3-4 defense these days, McGinest's job market is probably much healthier than many might assume.
It won't hurt him a bit either that branches of the Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells coaching/personnel trees just keep getting more plentiful. Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli, Denver head coach Josh McDaniels and New England's Belichick are just three obvious potential suitors should their teams develop a need at McGinest's outside linebacker slot.
I see where Pittsburgh receiver Santonio Holmes weighs more these days, with the Super Bowl MVP tipping the scales at 201, and Miami running back Ronnie Brown weighs less (in the 230 range). Both developments have been hailed as major improvements.
I always get a bit of a kick out of offseason news items along these lines, because how many times do the always-glowing reports of an offseason weight gain or loss really wind up holding true significance for the regular season? Although I must admit we'll all be watching the bulked up Adrian Peterson a bit closer this year, won't we?
It's a shame Vikings rookie receiver Percy Harvin was sent home from the NFL's rookie symposium in Florida after taking ill, because Harvin is just the kind of high-risk rookie that several years ago prompted the league to initiate a rookie symposium in the first place.
Let me get this straight: Ex-Vikings and Cardinals head coach Dennis Green thinks Michael Vick to Miami is a no brainer of sorts, because Bill Parcells always finds creative ways to get players he covets? So, drafting Pat White in the second round and having Ronnie Brown still around wouldn't give the Dolphins enough options for their Wildcat formation?
Dennis Northcutt just joined Matt Jones, Jerry Porter and Reggie Williams. You know what I'm thinking. Will the last Jaguars veteran receiver out the door please hit the lights. Talk about a house-cleaning at one particular spot on the depth chart.
Remember all those heartwarming stories that got churned out when receiver Joe Jurevicius signed a four-year deal with his hometown Browns in 2006, the team he rooted for growing up? So much for happy homecomings. Not that I blame him one bit, but Jurevicius' lawsuit against the team, the Cleveland Clinic and two team physicians over a staph infection that likely ended his career definitively ends any romance that may have still existed between him and the team he always wanted to play for.
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