How Andre Johnson's Contract Dispute Could Derail the Texans in 2010
Let's get this straight first. Andre Johnson is not only the best wide receiver in the NFL, he's the most important (dare I say, valuable?) player in the NFL.
Andre is the straw that stirs the NFL's best offense's drink.
Without Johnson, the Texans would be significantly negatively affected.
We're talking major meltdown, people.
For the sake of argument, let's say Andre Johnson holds out of camp and misses part or all of the 2010 season.
How would the Texans be affected? And, specifically, which Texans' players would be affected?
Matt Schaub: A General Without an Army
Matt Schaub led the NFL in passing yards in 2009. How much of that was because of Andre Johnson?
I'd say a great deal.
Don't get me wrong, Matt is a good quarterback. He's accurate, he makes (for the most part) good decisions, and he's a leader. Schaub is a top-five or top-six quarterback in the NFL.
But he's nowhere near that good without Andre Johnson. Look at almost all of the top quarterbacks in the league and in history.
Montana and Rice, Manning and Harrison/Wayne, Bradshaw and Swann.
Also, look no further than Tom Brady and Randy Moss. Brady was a winner and put up good numbers before Moss. But when Randy came to New England, Brady's numbers went nuclear. The Patriots nearly pulled off an undefeated season.
The point is, Matt Schaub is a much better player with Andre Johnson. (This is where you say: Duh.)
Gary Kubiak: On the Outside Looking In
Gary Kubiak is without question a great offensive mind.
Whether you think he's the man to lead the Texans to the playoffs or not, you cannot say he can't draw up the X's and O's.
If Andre Johnson holds out, the Texans will be sunk.
We can kiss the playoffs goodbye. And without making the playoffs in 2010, there is no chance that Gary Kubiak will be around in 2011.
In essence, even the brightest and best coach cannot lead a strong offense without the best players. Andre Johnson is certainly among the best players in the NFL. I argue he is the best player in the NFL.
Bob McNair: Back to the Drawing Board
If Andre Johnson holds out and misses time in 2010, Bob McNair will be unable to fulfill his promise of bringing a winner to the passionate fans in Houston.
McNair will be forced to fire Gary Kubiak (and possibly general manager Rick Smith) and the Texans will be back to the drawing board.
With a new coach, schemes are certain to change, players are likely to change, coaches are going to change.
Everything will change for McNair if Andre holds out.
Owen Daniels: Where Did All These Double-Teams Come From?
Sure, Owen Daniels has to prove his knee will allow him to return to form before he can be an asset for the Texans.
I think OD was on his way to becoming a Pro Bowl tight end in 2009 before he blew out his knee. But, he was undoubtedly aided by having opposing defenses focus on Andre Johnson.
I don't mean that as any slight against Daniels, but it's assuredly easier to make plays when other teams aren't gearing up to keep you off the board.
With Johnson around, Daniels could make the Pro Bowl. Without Andre, Daniels will be double-teamed and may or may not be able to duplicate his previous success.
Kevin Walter: Where Did That Safety Come From?
Much like Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter is a better player when facing single teams and is not the focus of opposing defensive schemes. Again, this is not a shot at Walter, but reality.
Walter is a very good fit for the Texans offense. Andre is athletic enough and talented enough to overcome double-teams. Walter, simply, is not.
Walter excels at making tough catches and earning first downs. All of that is easier with Andre on the other side.
Take Andre away and put the other team's best cover corner on Walter, and the Texans second wide receiver is in big trouble.
Steve Slaton and the Running Game
Imagine, for a second, a Texans running game worse in 2010 than it was in 2009.
I know, it's nearly unfathomable, but it could happen.
If Andre Johnson is gone, safeties can play closer to the line of scrimmage without the threat of a deep ball beating them.
Linebackers can run blitzes with no threat of a quick slant or hot route going the distance.
Opposing coaches can scheme to stop the run early and often.
In a nutshell, it won't be pretty for the running game if Andre is gone. Let's leave it at that.
The Defense: Can We Get off the Field Yet?
Without Andre in the fold, the Texans will have to rely on their defense to win games.
However, without Andre helping the offense put up points and keep the ball, the defense will be forced to play longer minutes and avoid mistakes.
The defense won't be able to gamble and will have to be more conservative in order to keep offenses out of the end zone.
Andre Johnson: Prediction
In my eyes, I don't think Andre Johnson will hold out. This article was really a worst case scenario.
I don't think Andre Johnson will hold out for three reasons.
One, Andre has always been a team-first player. I don't think he is interested in rocking the boat. He feels the team will address his contract at the appropriate time. He'll be in camp and play in all the meaningful games.
Two, he simply does not have legal ground to stand on. Andre signed his contract with his choice of representation.
Whether his uncle was the best choice for an agent, Johnson made his own decision. For those of you lawyers out there, think back to caveat emptor. For the rest of you, think of lying in the bed you made.
Johnson has so many years left on his deal, he has no leverage. Is he going to sit out until his contract expires? Highly unlikely. The team simply has all the clout and can choose when and if to make a decision to upgrade AJ's deal.
Third, and related to the previous point, the Texans won't allow AJ's contract status to become a problem. Sometime this season, I predict, the team and Andre will come together and work out an extension to both pay Johnson commensurate with the top players in the league and keep AJ in a Texans' uniform for the rest of his career.