We asked two contributors from Football Nation to indentify which player is the bigger let down through the 1st Eight Weeks of the season, Philip Rivers or Chris Johnson.
Goal Line Stand: CJ2K Biggest Disappoinment
By Joe Fell
Who has been the biggest disappointment in the NFL this season?
There’s no doubt that it is Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson.
Given the nickname CJ2K after his record-setting season in 2009 in which he rushed for 2,006 yards, Johnson has been a major disappointment after receiving a major raise in the offseason. Unless he improves his performance, Johnson can forget about using his newfound wealth on attorney fees related to maintaining a trademark on the nickname CJ2K. At the rate he’s going, Chris Johnson will be lucky to be called CJ800 by the end of the season.
Despite the rough state of the economy, most readers probably can remember at least one instance in their lifetimes in which they received a raise or a bonus. What prompted this unprovoked show of generosity? Most of the time, the raise or bonus was the result of success or great performance on the job. What often happened after the raise? Most of you were motivated to work harder and perform even better on the job.
After a third straight solid season in 2010, Johnson felt that he deserved a bigger contract and held out at the start of training camp. Eventually, the Titans caved into Johnson’s demands and gave him a contract that made him the highest-paid running back in the NFL.
Most Titans fans probably hoped that Johnson would be motivated by his higher salary and continue to deliver the eye-popping performances that characterized his first three seasons in the league as the team transitioned into the Jake Locker era.
What has Johnson done? Over the course of six games, Johnson has thanked the Titans for their generosity by rushing 93 times for 268 yards, catching 24 passes for 143 yards, and scoring 1 touchdown. The fact that Johnson amassed 228 yards in a single game in 2009 simply underscores how disappointing Johnson’s performance has been this season.
Despite his poor start to the season, it’s not hard to imagine that there are still scores of Johnson supporters out there who believe that he will rebound and have a solid end to the 2011 season. Perhaps he will. Admittedly, some players do indeed start slow.
Having said that, Johnson’s performance has shown absolutely no signs that he will be able to improve his performance. In fact, his performance has only gotten worse as the season has gone on. After rushing for 101 yards against a decent Cleveland Browns run defense in Week 4, Johnson could only muster 51 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers and 18 yards against the Houston Texans.
Furthermore, Johnson dug his own hole with his holdout, and that’s why it’s easy not to have much sympathy for him and label him as the season’s biggest disappointment. Johnson’s lack of leadership, combined with his poor play, makes him a colossal disappointment on and off the field. When a player puts his own agenda over his team’s development, he sends a message of pure selfishness to his fellow teammates and communicates that he’d rather look out for his own interests than ensure that his team gets off to a great start to the season. For the Titans, the need for a solid training camp was amplified by the lockout-shortened training camp schedule and the fact that the Titans were transitioning to a new head coach. As a team leader, Johnson should have left the negotiating to his agents and reported to camp on time. Instead, Johnson waited until September to report to camp and missed all four preseason games as well as many practices. Both Johnson’s play and the offense’s play as a unit has suffered as a result. The Titans’ struggles are particularly significant because they come during a season in which the absence of Peyton Manning for the Indianapolis Colts has created a wide-open AFC South.
Some of Johnson’s supporters may argue that he’s playing for a team with limited offensive talent and that opposing defenses can focus more on stopping the run now that Titans star receiver Kenny Britt is out for the season. Anyone who says this must be one of the millions of Johnson’s frustrated fantasy football owners or someone who is on Johnson’s PR team, because this argument is ridiculous. Many other running backs are playing on far less talented offenses and are performing much better. Adrian Peterson is playing on an offense that was led by the washed up Donovan McNabb until very recently, and he’s rushed for 712 yards and 8 touchdowns. Maurice Jones-Drew is carrying for the ball on an offense led by a rookie quarterback, and he’s rushed for 572 yards. Lastly, Johnson has shown that he can perform well in the midst of an anemic passing game. Johnson’s never played with a top-flight quarterback like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers and had the opportunity to benefit from the attention given to a strong passing game. In the past, the Titans were led by the ancient Kerry Collins, the erratic Vince Young, and the forgettable Rusty Smith, and yet Johnson was still able to amass Pro Bowl numbers.
Perhaps Johnson spent too much time in the recording studio working on his single “Act on Deck” in the offseason and not enough time on the football field with trainers and he subsequently entered the season in a poor physical state. Perhaps opposing defensive coordinators took advantage of the lockout to watch tape of Johnson’s first three seasons and the league has finally figured out how to stop Johnson. Perhaps Johnson has simply shown his true colors and stopped trying hard now that he’s gotten his big payday. Maybe Johnson himself doesn’t know what’s wrong and is simply hoping to continue coasting on the success of Matt Hasselbeck’s throwback season for as long as possible.
Despite all of the questions and uncertainty, though, there’s one fact that is indeed absolutely certain: Johnson has been the biggest disappointment in the 2011 season.
Goal Line Stand: Rivers Biggest Disappointment
by Lucas Karr
The 2011 season brought high hopes for a number of NFL quarterbacks. There were the usual expectations of guys like Tom Brady
and Drew Brees, but in any fantasy circle it didn’t take long before Philip Rivers’ name came up in the potentially “elite” category. Rivers had finished 2010 with over 4700 passing yards, 30 TDs, and only 13 INTs. He did this with Vincent Jackson, one of his biggest playmakers, sitting out over half the season because of a contract dispute. Rivers made guys off the street look like top caliber players. No one had heard of Legedu Naanee or Seyi Ajirotutu, and yet Rivers made them look like fantasy studs.
So going into 2011 the expectations were high. Rivers would have Vincent Jackson back. He would have a healthy Antonio Gates. And he would have a healthy Ryan Matthews in the backfield. Everything was set up perfectly for rivers to demolish his 2010 totals. I predicted Rivers would easily break Marino’s single season mark of 5084 yards and thought Vincent Jackson would have a shot at 1800 receiving yards. What we have seen from Rivers has been nothing close to that.
Through six games Rivers has only eight total touchdowns while accumulating 11 turnovers. He comes in at No. 20 in QB rating, behind the likes of McNabb, Dalton, and even Curtis Painter. He doesn’t have a single game with three or more TDs this season, a feat that even Tarvaris Jackson has accomplished this year. From a fantasy perspective he is even being outdone by Colt McCoy. To say that Philip Rivers has underperformed would be a very strong understatement.
While the Chargers are 4-2 on the year, there should be little excitement for the San Diego fans. The Chargers have won four games against teams that are a combined 6-19 on the season. Their two losses came against the Patriots and the Jets. In these six games, the Chargers have only outscored their opponents by five points, the worst point differential for any team 4-2 or better. The Chargers still have games against Oakland (twice), Green Bay, Chicago, Buffalo, Baltimore, and Detroit. These six teams combine for a current record of 28-11. At the current pace, there is no way that Rivers and the Chargers make the playoffs.
Even when the Chargers do win, it is not at the hands of Rivers. Ryan Matthew and Mike Tolbert have carried a huge load this season, touching the ball a combined 197 times. Those two players account for 62% of the team’s plays. When did this team go from being Philip Rivers’ team to being the Matthews-Tolbert show? Clearly this is not going to get it done for 16 games.
Rivers has easily been one of the biggest disappointments not only in the world of fantasy football, but for every Chargers fan who expected continued greatness from a guy who was surrounded by weapons. So will the real Philip Rivers please stand up? If it is the one we have seen so far this year, Chargers fans better get used to disappointment.