In Defense of Chris Johnson: A Titans Fan With Perspective


"We have the greatest offensive line in the nation... but he isn't running like he used to. He shys away from contact, he isn't running the way he used to. He isn't running like a $50 million running back." The typical caller with a southern drawl spouts this inane run-on, drooling on the phone pointing to Arian Foster as the back Chris Johnson should be like.

But he isn't. And I don't want him to be. Chris Johnson is one of the best in the league, and could potentially be one of the best in the history of the NFL if he keeps running at the pace he has set.

Not knowing a season under 1000 yards rushing, Chris Johnson claims four seasons at the running back position on the Tennessee Titans and boasts 16 games starting every year but one, in his first year when he only started 15.

"He got his contract and now he's just freaking soft. He doesn't care about the game, and he definitely don't care about the Titans." Yet another example of the typical Titans fan after Chris Johnson's first 2012-13 start against the Patriots and getting a mere 4 yards on 11 carries.

Last year it was "start Javon Ringer" and now it's "start Darius Reynaud". Who the hell is Darius Reynaud? Oh yeah, he's been in the NFL for about 4 seasons and has done jack squat with various teams- but he made a big play in the preseason for the Titans and now Nashville has hoisted him on their shoulders and called for Chris Johnson's head.

Maybe it was the holdout. The whole preseason and all of training camp, Johnson held out for a new contract in 2011 and signed a huge deal before the first week of the NFL season. But Johnson limped past the 1000 yard mark to 1,047 and the public was furious. All of that money we paid him (seemingly out of our own pockets) only to be the 14th best back in the NFL last year just doesn't cut it.

Well, what is it that you want Tennesseans? Were you the one screaming for Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt to pay him? Yes, you were. And if you weren't, then you didn't speak up.

Maybe it's Chris Johnson's persona. He isn't exactly Mr. Charisma, but he also isn't Mr. Pacman Jones. Twitter is not a good idea for him, I will admit. The whole telling off your fans online is not a good move.

But they don't pay him to kiss babies, and they certainly don't pay him to be liked. The pay him to run.

And run he has.

Let me break down the numbers by rushing yards since most of you have forgotten them.

In his inaugural season, 2008, Chris Johnson ranked 8th in the NFL with 1,228 rushing yards.

In 2009, he became one of six running backs in history to break 2,000 yards. He ran for 2,006 yards and totaled 503 yards receiving, averaging a first down for every pass that went his way.

His name can now be mentioned with the likes of Terrell Davis, Eric Dickerson, Jamal Lewis, OJ Simpson, and Barry Sanders in that category. What an amazing feat.

In 2010 Chris Johnson still ranked 4th in the NFL with 1,364 yards and last year after his big contract settled for 1,047 yards. The rushing leader last year, Maurice Jones-Drew, totaled over 1600 yards, but also had nearly 100 more carries than Chris Johnson.

But who can we compare him to? What measuring stick are we holding up? LenDale White? Chris Brown? Travis Henry? No. My only guess is that we compare him to Eddie George. The always smiling, charismatic, Heisman leader may be our only other great recent measuring tool, so let us briefly compare.

George's 9 year career as a consistent 1,000 yard rusher is a feat in and of itself. But it is only fair here to compare their first four years.

CJ Eddie

1228 1368

2006 1399

1364 1294

1047 1304

Who would you want from a statistical perspective? Arguments could be made, but the upside is clearly on the side of CJ. The 2,000 plus yard season with little to no talent around him is a moment that will forever be etched in football history.

The point is, Chris Johnson is a versatile back with talent that only comes around once a generation. It's time to step back and ask ourselves what we expect from our expensive tailback. Granted, 4 yards on 11 carries will not cut it- but calling for a benching after 1 game is completely foolish.

And while my attempt at CJ2K apologetics may fall on deaf ears, I know some of it has slipped through. You see, Titans fans are a nostalgic bunch for such a young franchise. The Music City Miracle, the 1-Yarder, McNair, George, Pad-Throwing Vince Young- whatever the memory, let's choose to remember the history of CJ2K while we look to the future.

It seems to me like we might be too blinded from that gold grill.

-Brett McReynolds

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