On Thursday, Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson was asked by the hosts of Detroit radio show Valenti and Foster if he's happy with his current situation, playing for a team that's gone 11-49 since drafting him in 2007. Johnson said he'd like to remain a member of the Lions, but with a major caveat:
If we turn this into a winner, I'm happy. Losing definitely sucks, and you definitely don't want to be around losing. You can't get used to that. I can't get used to it because I haven't come from that. I've been used to winning. And if this thing can't get turned around man -- like I said I'm just going to leave it, as I can't get used to it. I want to win.
I grew up a Barry Sanders fan. If the Atlanta Falcons weren't in it, and they usually weren't, I rooted for the Lions. And since Johnson went from the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to Detroit, my Lions soft spot has been ... re-tenderized? But after reading that, I really, really wouldn't mind it if Detroit ended up having just two more bad years. And then won 14 straight NFC North titles! Fair?
Because Johnson will be a free agent after the 2012 season if he doesn't sign an extension, and there's no player I'd rather the Falcons sign. The Fayette County native will be 27 years old then -- for reference, Roddy White is having a career year at age 29. With the young and talented core the Falcons are putting together, they stand as good a chance as any team of fielding a winner throughout the near future.
(On Twitter, White once said his favorite Halloween costume as a kid was his Optimus Prime. Come on! This is too perfect!)
Matthew Stafford will be a very good NFL quarterback, if he can ever stay healthy. But Matt Ryan would be the best quarterback Johnson has ever had -- Ryan will likely be one of the league's best quarterbacks a few years from now, and Johnson has excelled in some abominable surroundings. Johnson led the NFL in touchdown catches while playing for an 0-16 team quarterbacked by Dan Orlovsky and was a Heisman Trophy finalist despite catching passes from the worst four-year starter in NCAA history. What could he do if paired with Matty Ice? A veteran Matty Ice to boot?
Excuse me for playing Madden GM here. Is this please-distract-me-from-the-fact-that-2010-college-football-is-almost-over daydreaming? Yep. And totally hypocritical, considering how often I make fun of Georgia Bulldogs fans for wanting the Birds to trade the Georgia Dome for A.J. Green's draft rights? OK maybe. But there's no reason this would be totally off-limits. Johnson will command a massive contract no matter which team he signs his next deal with, but Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff doesn't mind going all-in every now and then, as he did with Ryan and White. And the Falcons do have one of the NFL's lower payrolls.
It's almost certainly not going to happen, and it's a very long time away either way. But if Johnson wants a chance to win, a trip back home in a few years might be his best bet.