Split decision on Calvin’s Hall of Fame worthiness

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
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Calvin Johnson

Pro Football Hall of Fame voters will have difficult decisions to make in 2021.

So far, Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Calvin Johnson and Jared Allen and Marshawn Lynch are among the players who will be eligible for the honor in five years.

But, not everyone agrees that Johnson, who retired Tuesday, is a Hall of Famer after his nine seasons with the Lions. And even if people think Johnson is worthy, many question whether he deserves to go in on the first ballot.

Something that could hurt Johnson is the potential backlog of worthy receivers. Marvin Harrison didn’t get in until his third year of eligibility, and he ranked seventh all-time in career receiving yards. Terrell Owens failed to gain entry in his first opportunity despite ranking second all-time in receiving yards.

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Johnson, meanwhile, ranks 27th in career receiving yards. Isaac Bruce ranks fourth and Torry Holt ranks 14th, and neither of the former Rams stars are in yet.

“I think you have to look and have respect for the guys that did play longer, and I think have statistically produced more,” former Lions receiver Herman Moore said of Johnson last month. “Unfortunately, it muddles the water when you start awarding guys based on the potential of what they could’ve done if they continued versus those that fought it out and continued to do that. So, I say you get through with the other guys and then you ultimately give the opportunity back to a guy like Calvin.”

Johnson’s peers like Charles Tillman, James Jones and Patrick Peterson think he’s a Hall of Famer. Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe thinks Johnson is worthy, but doesn’t know who could be first-round worthy if Owens didn’t make it.

Hall of Fame receiver Lynn Swann told The Detroit News last month that he doesn’t know if Johnson is worthy of the honor in part because of a lack of team success. The Lions never won a postseason game during Johnson’s career.

Fellow Hall of Famer Tim Brown was unsure where Johnson’s numbers stack up, but he thinks Johnson had a “great” impact on the game.

Now, Johnson and everyone else will have to wait and see what the voters think.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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