Andre Johnson Leaving Houston Would Be Quitting When Texans Need Him the Most

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJuly 10, 2014

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Images

Andre Johnson is tired of losing. Well, boo freaking hoo.    

There's a long line of greats who played on horrible teams. Most of them didn't publicly cry about it the way Johnson does. Or demand a trade, the way he supposedly has

History is replete with the blood, broken bones and busted bodies of dispirited men who plodded on despite their franchises being run by losers, incompetents and Matt Millen.

Barry Sanders played for knucklehead coaches and terrible quarterbacks. He stayed, albeit for a short while. Adrian Peterson, one of the great stars and most dedicated players of his generation, has recently played with Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel at quarterback. Not exactly Montana and Unitas. For the next two years, Peterson will play all of his games outside…in Minnesota. Still, no crying from Peterson.

As one of my Twitter followers wrote: 

Also signed, the City of Detroit.

Archie Manning was a stunning talent but never had a winning year or made the playoffs in 13 seasons. His body was physically destroyed behind horrible offensive lines. Calvin Johnson hasn't exactly played for Super Bowl winners. Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1992 despite the Seahawks going 2-14. The Seahawks as a franchise never came close to matching Kennedy's greatness. 

Outside of football, the late Tony Gwynn was an all-time talent and once played on a Padres team that lost 103 games.

I used to interview Sanders (the rare times he would grant one-on-one interviews) and ask him what it was like to be such a great player on a sorry team. He never bit. He never complained. There had to be a part of him that knew he was never going to win, yet he still fought. He did retire early partly because of the losing, but I was always told by people close to him he left the game mainly because of concerns over what football was doing to his body.

Sanders told Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey in August of last year:

I was feeling like I'd done enough, ready to move on...I was never that guy who was going to stay and play until they had to cart me off the field. Some guys have that love of the game where they're going to get every last play. At year 10, I lost that determination to do it every day.

There is a part of me that likes to see Johnson exercise power. In the NFL, players truly have very little of it. The only power they actually possess is withholding their play, and even that is tenuous. If Johnson holds out, the receiver could be forced to pay back his $8.7 million signing bonus. In every way, the system is rigged against players.

But make no mistake, if Johnson is traded because he demanded it, then he's quitting. He's quitting at a time when the Houston franchise needs his leadership the most.

Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the quarterback. Ryan Gosling might be better. The Texans do have Arian Foster back, but their offense is toast without Johnson. And Foster knows it.

Defenses would focus most of their resources on stopping Foster and ignore Fitzpatrick since he's terrible.

Johnson is a good man and one of the best leaders not just on the team but in the NFL. He's understandably frustrated that Texans management and coaching haven't matched his consistent talent and competency.

Andre Johnson career stats

Don't you think Archie Manning wanted a trade after Jack Youngblood slammed his face into the ground five times a game? Manning was sacked 340 times during his Saints career. Three-hundy-forty.

In the end, if Johnson retires due to fear over his health, like Sanders, that is different. If he demands a trade and ends up in New England, that is something else.

That's quitting.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


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