A few days ago, TBN had a quick blurb about how Lee Evans was enjoying his retirement while taking in the Bills/49ers game. The way Tim Graham set up the blurb was how Lee was smiling and just loving life since he didn't have to suit up anymore. That is all fine and dandy, but I still think Lee Evans has ruined my perception of #1 WRs. It is a disease after all. An excuse ridden disease.
You see, I couldn't stand Lee Evans while he played here. For years, the guy put up minimum numbers and yet, fans and media members kept saying his numbers would be dynamite if he played with the likes of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Blah. Blah. Blah. It was always about the QB. Never about how guys like Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald would put up numbers when their QBs were the likes of Derek Anderson, Matt Leinart, Shaun Hill or Sage Rosenfels. Guys who would impose their god given abilities to say "Screw it! I don't care who the QB is, just throw the damn ball up and I'll get it."
Alas, it felt like I was the only guy in that group. I happen to think a lot of it had to do with fans clinging onto Lee as being the only "Star" player on the team. They wanted so badly for him to become an elite player that they put on blinders or just pointed the finger the other way when he failed. Also, he was a fun wide receiver to watch when he actually contributed. A number of fans acted as if he was this great All-Pro player, but he was ranked 111th in catches in his last year with the club. He was a guy who had only two 1,000 yard seasons on his resume. A guy who has just one 100-yard game over his last 34 starts in Buffalo. A guy who during his seven years in the league, had four seasons of 50-catches or fewer.
As for the media's perception, well, we all know that if you happen to be a nice guy and become a "Go-to-guy" in the locker room for quotes, they aren't exactly going to grease that slide for you to get out of town (See: Chris Kelsay and Lindy Ruff). There should have been more articles trying to get the most overrated Bills player of all-time out of town. But in essence, both parties kept placing the blame on the QB for the reason Evans was a disappointment. It was never his fault. It was never his fault that he was a one trick pony.
I'm telling you all of this because I think Stevie Johnson is starting to get that disease. Yes, it is still early in the prognosis, but I'm already hearing people use the same disease
excuse with Stevie as they did with Lee. Here are the facts with Stevie:
- Stevie only has 21 catches so far this year, which is on pace for about 66 catches.
- He has had only one 100-yard performance in his last 27 games.
- He's making 35-million dollars.
Now, I'd be an idiot if I was trying to place all of the blame or even 50% of it on Stevie. Fitz has been a tire fire. However, it is not like these guys haven't connected in the past. This isn't a Trent Edwards/Lee Evans situation where the pairing had very little past success. I just don't want to go down the road of giving Johnson a free pass if he continues to struggle. It is like giving all of the blame to Mario Williams for the DL struggling when there are a lot of other well paid players on that line doing badly.
I know that WGR is doing the eye in sky series and Jeremy White and a few others have been on record to say that Stevie is open. He seems to be more open than a 7-11 if you go by what they are saying. It may be true, but, I, being the bearer of skepticism, will say that a number of WRs are open on any given play from the eye in the sky vantage point, but if you aren't the primary receiver and the Bills are very in tune for doing quick release passes, the guy may be nothing but a decoy or someone who isn't designed to get the ball.
I'll admit, I'm probably a little like the journalists who protected Lee when it comes to Stevie. I like the guy. I like players who have charisma and want to be stars. I respect that. We've written about how much we love him on the site numerous times. He's down to earth and he seems like a fun dude. He has that "It" factor and we all know if you are famous, Buffalo fans will gravitate towards you because you are a name. It is probably one of the main reasons why everyone is breathing down Fitz's neck and not Stevie's. However, I'm not giving to give him the rights of passage to let him go free. This shouldn't be a situation of blaming one guy and not the other, it is a situation for blaming everyone.
Also, I think it is important to not enable Stevie into thinking it is all Fitz's fault. We can probably think that, but not him. I mentioned this during the New England game, but Stevie's body language isn't exactly glowing when he's walking off the sidelines. The guy is pissed off. Maybe he was joking the other night when he said…
"I know most of "yall" live vicariously thru me; so when I lose it makes your life 13x more miserable than it already is. Well… TOUGH SHIT!"
His next tweet was about how he was kidding, but sometimes, a joke can have a shade of truth to it. Also, I don't want my star wide receiver to start acting like nothing is his fault, hence the reason we shouldn't be putting 110% of the blame for his production on Fitz.
Again, it is a team game and everyone needs to do their job. I just don't want this to be a trend where we give Stevie a pass like we did Lee. I can do that for 8 games maybe, but I'm not about to make this into a yearly trend because the guy is famous or well liked like Evans. I hated being that guy on the island by myself when it came to challenging Lee's play. However, if the trends keeps going this way, I may have to be alone again on a different island.