August 16, 2011
There's no question that former Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins receiver Cris Carter is one of the greatest of all time at his position. He's third all time in career receptions with 1,101, eighth in receiving yards with 13,899, and fourth all time in receiving touchdowns with 130. He should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he's had to wait (hopefully not too much longer), and that's a shame. Few players figured things out better after a rough start and mined their potential than Carter did.
That said, Carter has a way to go as an analyst. Asked last Friday by ESPN's Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic to present a list of the top receivers in the game today, Carter had one notable omission. He named Andre Johnson(notes), Larry Fitzgerald(notes), Greg Jennings(notes), Reggie Wayne(notes), DeSean Jackson(notes) and Roddy White(notes). He didn't name Calvin Johnson(notes) of the Detroit Lions, and when Greenberg and Golic questioned him about it, he downgraded Johnson for reasons that seemed obscure at best.
"Calvin Johnson, he's very, very good at Madden and Tecmo Bowl or whatever they're playing now. But on film, when I watch film, and I break down the film, he's not to the point of these guys yet. That doesn't mean he can't play. He just not there yet." [...]
"...We're trying to determine greatness and impact on the NFL game. Calvin Johnson, you don't have to double-team him to take him out of the game. Now, I made eight Pro Bowls. I made it with five different quarterbacks. They weren't always great. So I don't want to hear the excuse that I'm not playing with a great quarterback.["]
Well, that's a bit revisionist. First of all, Johnson gets doubled as often as any receiver in the NFL, and he still puts up ridiculous numbers. That's easy to see on tape, because his "complementary receivers" have been league-average at best and pathetic at worst. While Carter was ripping it up with Jake Reed and Randy Moss(notes) for the Vikings at his peak, Johnson has had battery-mates like Shaun McDonald(notes), Mike Furrey(notes), Roy E. Williams, Bryant Johnson(notes) and Nate Burleson(notes). Not exactly Murderer's Row there. And Carter still had better quarterbacks than Shaun Hill(notes), Daunte Culpepper(notes), Dan Orlovsky(notes), Jon Kitna(notes), and the interesting but oft-injured Matthew Stafford(notes).
In truth, I think Carter got caught in forgetting Johnson and just didn't want to admit it, because he later backtracked from his original list. On Monday, with the two Mikes still talking about it, Carter called in to the radio show and said that "[Johnson is] right there with the top five. I may have given Reggie Wayne a gift."
Or, he just forgot about Johnson and refused to admit it.
In any case, Johnson couldn't care less. "I'm not really tripping," Johnson told the Detroit Free Press on Monday. "I don't really care. I don't really listen. I didn't even know what happened until one of the guys told me the other day. I have my remarks, but I'm going to keep that to myself."
And that attitude should keep him off any ESPN shows as a future analyst. Saying without knowing is a trademark in some quarters.
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