It’s official: the Chad Johnson Era is over in Miami.
Even after an atrocious 2011, most observers never expected that the former Mr. Ochocinco would have more legal name changes as a Dolphin than receptions. His Dolphins stint lasted two months and a day, and consisted largely of a sideshow. In his one preseason game he produced nothing but a key drop on third down that serves as a microcosm of his last two years.
The reality is that Johnson had little to offer the Dolphins anyways. He was never going to be what Brandon Marshall was last season, and he likely would have landed a starting job that he probably didn’t deserve based on name recognition alone.
Call it addition by subtraction.
This whole ordeal raises a host of questions. Here’s a look at some answers for the team and the man at the forefront.
WHO ARE THE WINNERS IN THIS SITUATION?
The biggest winner in this debacle is whoever lands the final spot in the Dolphins’ new depth chart at wide receiver. Julius Pruitt and Roberto Wallace both turned in solid performances, and one or both could make the team behind Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, and newcomer Legedu Naanee.
Ryan Tannehill also gets to avoid the headache of a prima-donna receiver who can’t catch anymore, which is never good for a rookie quarterback, so call him and the other passers winners as well. Rookie head coach Joe Philbin gets high marks for dealing with a distraction head-on and making a firm decision, something that you don’t see too often from new bosses in any industry.
The fans in Miami also are likely going to win in this situation. The team is probably better without Johnson, which was true even before this debacle. He’s an unreliable target who would have been relied on a great deal. Losing him is likely worth at least one win to this team.
HOW ABOUT THE LOSERS?
The biggest loser in this situation is society as a whole. Spousal abuse is one of the worst aspects of American life, no matter what the reason. There are outlets to deal with marital problems that don’t involve headbutting.
Another big loser is HBO. While they jumped on to the Dolphins’ camp before Johnson was brought in, he likely would have brought plenty of viewers to the show if for no other reason than to see if he would be up to any of his old tricks. HBO thought they had a coup, and now they’ll likely get a small boost out of morbid curiosity but nothing close to what they could have had with Johnson as a regular presence.
The next team to bring Johnson in is going to lose as well. There will be a next time, be it an NFL team with depth problems or a team in some other league looking for a quick attendance boost (see: Allen Wranglers). He’s going to be more of a headache than he’s worth, either because he won’t help attendance, he’ll take a job that someone else could do better, or both.
Johnson himself also loses, which goes without saying, but all of his problems are his own doing.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE DOLPHINS?
Miami was fortunate to find out that Johnson wouldn’t be a part of the team early on enough that they have plenty of time to evaluate their other options at wide receiver. It’s hard to believe that Johnson was talented enough to be anything more than a fourth or spot third receiver, a role which will now go to Pruitt or Wallace. Both are likely to get roster spots now, and truth be told either one of them would be an upgrade over Johnson on the field.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, they are losing a veteran presence in the locker room that could have been more beneficial than what he had to give in game situations. After trading Yeremiah Bell and losing Vernon Carey to retirement, there is a void of long-term Dolphin talent (not that Johnson was a long-term Dolphin) to lead the younger players. Reggie Bush, Jake Long, and Karlos Dansby are going to have to take charge if the team is going to do any growing in 2012.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR JOHNSON’S LEGACY?
It doesn’t help, that’s for sure.
As a football player, Johnson was always going to be judged by his time as a Bengal. For a while, he was one of the best receivers in the NFL, if not the best outright. His Patriots season was likely going to be long forgotten by the time his Hall-of-Fame candidacy came around.
Speaking of which, he would have been very borderline for inclusion even based on his Cincy career alone. In a decade with the Bengals, he caught 751 passes for 10,783 yards and 66 touchdowns. He was first-team All-Pro twice and led the league with 1,369 yards in 2006. He stands at 26th all-time in both catches and yards.
There is no denying that he was a game-changer in his prime, even on those really
bad Bengals teams of the early 2000’s. However, looking at the talent at wide receiver that has been waiting several years for an invite to Canton, Johnson’s may have never come.
He was always fondly looked at by the media, however. He was always an entertainer as well as a talented receiver; there is a reason people still care about him. He was never really seen as a bad guy, but now that’s likely going to change. The media spotlight that he always sought is now shining on him in a very negative way.
Eventually, however, it will go away, because there won’t be much left to look at.