He had the speed to accelerate past pressing defensive backs, and the strength to create space to come down with a contested jump ball.
Perhaps better known as “Megatron”, Johnson truly seemed to be a robotic beast of a wide receiver playing against mere mortals.
The Hall Of Famer finished his career with 11,619 yards, 83 touchdowns, and 731 catches.
Despite this remarkable production, Johnson decided to call it a career relatively young, retiring after his age-30 season in 2015.
It wasn’t unlike the path former Lions running back Barry Sanders took, also ending his career prematurely in the eyes of many.
If both players had been part of winning teams more consistently, it’s possible they would have played longer.
Here are three ways Detroit ruined Calvin Johnson’s career.
One of the best to ever do it.
— Coach Choice (@coachchoice) February 11, 2021
3. They Never Found A Secondary Receiver
The Lions spent a whole host of top-10 picks in the 2000s on receivers, but the only one that ended up delivering was Johnson.
Johnson overlapped with Roy Williams earlier in his career, but Williams never delivered on the promise he had despite his physical gifts.
As Johnson’s tenure in Detroit progressed, it seemed like the supporting cast of pass catchers around him got worse and worse.
Only once in his nine years in the league did Johnson have a teammate who had over 1,000 yards receiving (Golden Tate in 2014).
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Lions went 11-5 in 2014 due in part to the threat Tate provided when Johnson was doubled.
It was a luxury seldom provided, as it turned out.
2. He Played On An 0-16 Team In 2008
Detroit made history for all the wrong reasons in the 2008 season, completing the clean sweep by losing every single game that campaign.
Johnson recorded 1,331 yards through the air and 12 touchdown catches, so his production certainly could not be at fault.
But going through a season like that for any player is pretty debilitating, let alone for someone who was only in his second year in the league.
At that point, many players likely would have started to wonder aloud whether things would ever get better.
Others might have tried to force a trade out of town.
Johnson didn’t do that, and kept his head down to try to get through the bad times.
As admirable as that was, the team never really made it up to him by putting a perennial contender on the field.
— Coach Choice (@coachchoice) May 6, 2020
1. He Had To Play Through Concussions
According to reports, Johnson claims that he suffered close to 10 concussions throughout his NFL career.
There were certain coaching staffs, Johnson claims, that didn’t see the need to have him checked for the head injury, and wanted him to remain on the field.
Of course, these alleged ailments didn’t stop the receiver from putting up Canton-level production, but this situation is not ideal for someone to go through over and over again.
Had there been a different organizational approach, it’s possible that Johnson may have been afforded time to recover from the injuries, or would have been held out sooner once he showed symptoms.