Let me just begin this editorial by reminding the reader that Calvin Johnson's career is not dead yet. It is on life support, though. Johnson told Jim Caldwell, Matthew Stafford and Stephen Tulloch that he planned on retiring. He told those two players back at the beginning of the season and Caldwell at the end. Caldwell told Johnson to sit on the decision for awhile and think about it. That's where we stand right now. It doesn't guarantee Calvin's retirement, but it does give us perspective on how serious his intentions are and were.
With that out of the way, let's face reality. Calvin Johnson's time in Detroit is coming to an end. If it's not this year (although it probably is), it'll likely be next. Now that another superstar is retiring at a time most consider early, many Detroit Lions fans are upset. The Lions have wasted another Hall of Famer's career. Detroit did this to him. Same Old Lions. Same Old Lions. Same Old Lions.
The lazy "wasted career" argument goes like this: Because the Lions weren't successful during Calvin's career, they should be admonished for having the audacity to keep such a supreme talent on their roster. Johnson, with his undeniable gift, deserves to have his talent validated with rings, they say.
This argument is full of false assumptions and faulty logic. First of all, it implies that the Lions never made an effort to surround Johnson with talent and get him a championship, which is absolutely untrue. Since Calvin joined the team in 2007, the Lions have tried year in and year out to get that complementary piece to free up Calvin's side of the field. They drafted the likes Derrick Williams, Titus Young, Ryan Broyles and Eric Ebron to help find a 1B to Calvin's 1A. They tapped free agency too, making huge signings in Nate Burleson and Golden Tate. Detroit spent endless resources in their attempt to help Calvin Johnson -- you could even argue too many resources -- but things just didn't typically work out as they had hoped.
And toward the end, it did actually work out. Burleson and Tate provided legitimate threats on the field and the Lions offense -- and the entire team -- started to prosper. The Lions made two playoff appearances in four years and damn near won their first postseason game over 20 years. At what point is Johnson's career "not wasted?" Would things really be any different if the Lions won one playoff game, or reached a conference championship? Or is the bar of an non-wasted career a Super Bowl ring? Because if that's the case, the Texans are wasting J.J. Watt's career, as are the Vikings with Adrian Peterson, the Cardinals with Larry Fitzgerald, the Falcons and Giants for Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr. The NFL is cruel league; players aren't just handed rings, no matter how good they are. Championships are unfairly decided by a single-elimination playoff bracket, so sometimes the greats aren't rewarded with jewelry.
But the biggest, most faulty assumption of this poor argument is that Johnson's career had no value during his time in Detroit. Johnson made every single game he played in watchable, whether it was his unbelievable 329 yard performance against the Cowboys or his nine catches for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Lions' 16th loss of the 2008 season. Johnson brought excitement to a fanbase completely devoid of any. He made highlights on a weekly basis and broke record after record. He made 81 synonymous with greatness in Detroit. Best of all, he made a fool out of Cris Carter. To call Johnson's career a waste is oblivious to the happiness he spread in Detroit and insulting to the man himself.
As the curtain begins to fall on Megatron's career, Lions fans should not be lamenting what could have been, but celebrating what was.