Chris Johnson: Super Bowls shouldn't be determining factors for Hall candidates

Photo courtesy of USA Today
Clark Judge

(EDITOR'S NOTE: To access the Chris Johnson interview, log on to 24:30 of the attachment above)

Former running back Chris Johnson has made it clear he thinks he belongs in Canton. He said it at a draft-related function in Nashville, and he said it again on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.

“I feel like I’m a Hall of Famer,” he told us, “and I feel like I had a Hall-of-Fame career.”

But there are a couple of things he’d like you to understand. The first is that he doesn’t really comprehend the process or what makes voters tick. And that’s OK. Few persons do. He simply believes he had some extraordinary achievements – rushing for 2,000 yards in one season, for instance – that qualify him for a Hall-of-Fame conversation.

“I don’t want to sound cocky or anything like that,” he told the Talk of Fame Network. “I’m a most humble guy. And I know after this interview, it’s going to be so many people on social media saying, ‘You suck. There’s no way you should be a Hall of Famer.’ “

Fair enough. But there’s nothing we can do about that. Social media is what it is.

But the second point he makes IS something that can be controlled … or patrolled … whichever you prefer. And that’s the value of championships on a candidate’s Hall-of-Fame resume.

Over 60 percent of Hall of Famers won NFL championships, and Johnson has no problem with that. But he doesn’t think it should be a defining part of the resume. Quarterbacks Dan Fouts, Warren Moon and Sonny Jurgenson never won Super Bowls, for instance. Neither did recently elected LaDainian Tomlinson, another running back.

Of course, neither did Johnson. In fact, he played in only one playoff game. But he’s one of seven players to break 2,000 yards rushing in one season and set an NFL record when he produced 2,509 yards from scrimmage that same season (2009).

He’s also the only player in league history to score touchdowns of 50, 60 and 90 yards in one game, which he did in Week Two of the 2009 season. Plus, he's the only one to produce touchdown runs of 80 or more yards six times in a career.

No other player in league history has more than four.

“I think the Super Bowls and stuff is kind of like icing on the cake,” he said. “Know what I’m saying? I could’ve been a guy who was playing with Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, and I could have three or four Super Bowl rings. But I’m not a Hall-of-Fame player. But I’ve still got Super Bowl rings.

“They help some people get in. But I don’t feel like if two players have the same …. like … careers and this player has a Super Bowl ring and this one doesn’t, I don’t feel like that should be a determining factor of one getting in before him. Because you don’t know what kind of team this guy plays with.”

In the end, Johnson will be judged on a resume that has him ranked 35th in career rushing, with one rushing title, one NFL Offensive Player-of-the-Year award, three Pro Bowl selections and one first-team All-Pro choice. It's also a resume that includes fewer than 10,000 career rushing yards (he had 9,651), often a yardstick for Canton conversations.

By contrast, running back Edgerrin James ranks 13th in career rushing with 12,246 yards, won two rushing titles, was an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, a four-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro and a first-team all-decade choice.

And he’s not in the Hall.

So draw your own conclusions. Chris Johnson isn’t eligible for Canton until 2023, and he’ll need all of that time … and maybe a lot more … to convince voters he’s worthy of inclusion.

Follow on Twitter @ClarkJudgeTOF

Comments (4)
No. 1-3
brian wolf
brian wolf

Chris Johnson wasnt the same runner after he signed that huge contract with the Titans. Like alot of free agents signing for big money, they lose their edge and let complacency set in, and never seem to get it back, though like Jamaal Charles, Johnson was a big play running back.

Switching teams probably didnt help Johnson but injuries curtailed his career similiar to Charles. Yes, lots of big plays, but probably not a HOF career. Lynch of Seattle was a great power runner like Eddie George and helped his team get to two SBs. However, did he do enough to secure a place in the Hall ? Like George, he carried his team and everyone knew he was coming, but he couldnt crack the 11-12,000 yrd barrier either.

Scott Dochterman
Scott Dochterman

I’m glad you guys are talking about running backs like Chris Johnson and Ricky Watters because there’s a glut of good-to-great runners from the 1990s/2000s. Johnson’s production and impact mirror both Priest Holmes and Jammal Charles. Shaun Alexander rushed for 100 touchdowns. Jamal Lewis was a second-team all-decade pick with a 2,000-yard season. Corey Dillon, Ricky Williams, Eddie George and Fred Taylor were very productive. In a few years, you’ll have Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch.

It seems like in previous generations these guys would have been discussed with more regularity but either their stats or the position itself has become secondary. Edgerrin James was outstanding and deserving of a hall call, but the others produced similar resumes and their non-statistical impact was on a comparable level.

Clark Judge
Clark Judge

Editor

Good to hear from you, Scott. I will apologize to you as I did Brian for a late reply. You're right about the RBs, but they just don't seem to gain an audience with HOF voters. I mean, look how long it's taking us to act on Edgerrin James. Ricky Watters is deserving, but he hasn't even been a semifinalist. To me, he's an Edge-like guy -- terrific runner, dynamic receiver out of the backfield. But Edge was part of that Triplets group in Indy when they had Peyton and Marvin Harrison and he piled up all those numbers on team that threw a lot more than it ran. Anyway, appreciate the feedback. Thanks again for writing.


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