Monday, November 9, 2009

Now What?

So the Chefs threw away the leftovers of Larry Johnson. Coach Todd Haley decided that the team was better off with the fungible combo of Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith. What a fall from grace for the former league leading rusher.

Johnson burst onto the scene in 2004 and fantasy football players can tell you he was one of best backs through the final five games of the season when he had several 100 yard games and scored a touchdown or two per week. In 2005 and 2006, Johnson blew up. He had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage both years and averaged about 20 touchdowns. Big stuff.

And then it stopped.

In 2007, Johnson had only 559 rushing yards as he missed half the season due to injury. This was actually predicted by many because Johnson had so many carries the year before. His body just broke down for the year.

The problem is that Johnson never has come back. He hasn't had a 1,000 yard season again and since 2007, he has fewer touchdowns COMBINED in two and a half years than he had in any one of his first three seasons. Johnson has also become increasingly difficult to handle off the field. He allegedly spit on a woman in a night club and has been generally ornery and difficult to get along with. These days he's taken to his problem to Twitter and got suspended for some off-color remarks that he posted.

Now he's gone from Kansas City and fans don't seem too upset. I guess Chiefs supporters don't like homophobic players who just seem angry at the world.

Is Johnson done? His numbers say so and he is about to turn 30 years old which is generally the point of diminishing returns for a runner.

But then you have to take into account the surroundings Johnson has played in. Kansas City has sucked like a vacuum cleaner for the past three seasons. Since the bye week of 2007, the Chiefs have two wins. TWO. That's a win per year.

The line collapsed, quarterback Trent Green concussed himself into oblivion, the defense is still being rebuilt, and there is no passing game to speak of. Plus, Johnson is a big bruising back that works best when he can slam into the line and wear a team down and then break off some big runs in the fourth quarter to salt the game away. That kind of back doesn't work so well when a team is down by a few touchdowns as the Chiefs always are.

So L.J. is now free to go anywhere. If he winds up in the right situations, he might just add some muscle to a running game as the playoffs approach. But who could he go to?

Logic tells us that Johnson wants nothing to do with a losing team anymore, so bottom dwellers can forget about him. He's too frustrated to be patient with a team that's building. He'd do more harm than good.

The Houston Texans could use some help in the running game, but that seems to be more of a line problem than a back problem. Still, the Texans might decide that Johnson is an upgrade to Chris Brown.

How about (gulp) the Patriots? That team has dead running backs everywhere and Coach Sweatshirt has a habit out of signing other teams' trash and turning them into treasure.

Maybe the Bengals will sign another problem back and hope they can strike gold again like they did with Cedric Benson.

Johnson is definitely a risk with his reputation for locker room disharmony, but malcontents have gone on to great things with a new team before. If L.J. goes to a team that has a chance to win and can block for him, you might see fireworks again. If you don't, well, I guess it's better to burn out than fade away.

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