All signs suggest Calvin Johnson is retiring at the age of 30. Will it stick? It did when Barry Sanders did the same thing in the same city at the same age 20 years ago, but we’ve seen waffling from other “retired” superstars in the NFC North.
But even if Johnson does walk away for good, he’ll likely still find his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Working against Johnson — naturally — is the fact his cumulative stats won’t be as impressive as many non-Hall of Famers. Guys like Muhsin Muhammad, Eric Moulds and Donald Driver have more catches than Johnson, who ranks 43rd all time with 731. And he ranks outside of the top 20 in terms of yardage and touchdowns.
In this day and age, that won’t usually cut it.
But Johnson ranks second in history with 86.1 yards per game, and his 1,964 yards in 2012 is by far the highest single-season total in NFL history. That combined with what we’ve seen from him empirically has to be enough, even in such a short career.
There’s only one modern-day wide receiver in the Hall of Fame who played fewer than 10 seasons. That’s Lynn Swann, who spent nine years with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Swann helped Pittsburgh win four Super Bowls in that span, but when he retired in 1982 he ranked 61st in terms of yards per game and outside of the top 30 in all of the key cumulative categories.
Yes, it was a different era, but the man never had a 1,000-yard season.
So if Swann’s in, Johnson has to eventually find his way in. The only question is probably when that happens, because Johnson’s decision to walk away now will likely cost him first-ballot entry, especially if Peyton Manning joins him as a first-time candidate in 2021.