You’ve all seen it by now. And if for some reason you didn’t see it on Sunday, surely you’ve heard someone talking about it.
Everyone seems to have a take on Stevie Johnson’s dancing habits after the Bills’ wideout made a few friendly gestures towards counterpart Plaxico Burress during his touchdown celebration in the second quarter of the Bills’ 28-24 loss to the Jets over the weekend.
Bob Costas called it “unprofessional” and “mindless”. The always-pleasant Rodney Harrison said Johnson is “immature” and “needs to grow up.” Even Peter King, a guy traditionally known for backing the Bills in the past more so than most, appeared on the The Herd (of all places), and bashed Stevie, calling him “classless” and an “idiot.”
Low and behold, the media has once again managed to take an otherwise petty and irrelevant topic and make it sound as though the world is coming to an end for Johnson and the Bills.
This is expected.
However, much to my surprise, even many Bills fans have come forth expressing their displeasure towards Johnson.
Sure, it was probably unnecessary and it turned out to hurt the Bills, but we’ll get to that later.
What doesn’t surprise me, though, is the trend I have noticed through Twitter and in reading and talking to various people since Stevie’s actions.
It seems as though the older crowd has tended to take the no-nonsense approach to the situation. Guys like Costas and Jerry Suillvan were quick to point out what a bone-headed move the celebration was and how the ensuing 15-yard penalty along with Johnson’s untimely drop on the Bills’ final drive ultimately cost the Bills the game.
Sorry, gentlemen. But I’ll have to disagree with you on this one (Unlike most, it’s not very often I disagree with Sully).
I’m 20 years old. I represent a far younger generation than the one that Costas, Sullivan and a good majority of sports writers around the nation who see Johnson’s actions as “immature” hail from. With that said, and I think I’m speaking for a good majority of sports fans around my age when I say this, I believe it’s a great thing for Johnson to celebrate the way he did and nothing should change about the way he plays and acts while on the gridiron (other than maybe resorting to utilizing an obscene amount of stickum during games ala Jamal Jackson of the Washington Sentinels).
Now, should Johnson have fallen to the ground to conclude his extravagant celebration? No. That was incredibly ill-conceived on his part. Johnson has got to be smart enough to know that will cost him 15 in today’s NFL (he admitted on WGR that he was “unaware” of the rule). But it’s today’s sports scene that prompted Johnson to celebrate in the manner in which he did. And I see nothing wrong with players being able to express themselves in their own way. Hell, I find it entertaining (besides, wasn’t it about time someone mocked Burress for his stupidity?).
Were Johnson’s actions unprofessional? Absolutely. But it’s not like it’s the first time a player has broken out into his own questionable celebration following a touchdown. Not by a long shot. In fact, Johnson joins a long line of receivers who salivate at every opportunity they get to thrust themselves into the lime light.
So why the uproar? Why is that such a bad thing?
It sells, folks. By pretending to shoot himself in the leg before taking his crash-landing into the emerald-green end zone, Johnson is subconsciously promoting himself. He’s selling tickets and jerseys. He’s paying Mark Schlereth’s salary and providing me with a career.
It makes people want to talk about the Bills.
It’s what the NFL endorses (although they may not want you to think that). They eat it up. And the NFL endorses it because that’s what you demand.
They’re in the business of entertainment. That’s the bottom line. If you’re not entertained, they’re not making money. And that’s why excessive celebrations like Johnson’s and the many that have come before him are not such a terrible thing and will continue to occur as long as the NFL remains a multi-billion dollar industry.
I know that you’re thinking: “hey man, I don’t give a crap about the NFL making money. He still cost us the game!”. Well No. 1, no he didn’t. And No. 2, that brings me to my next point.
Why is everyone suddenly blaming Johnson and his flamboyant personality for the Bills’ inevitable collapse?
Please. Let’s be real. The Bills weren’t going anywhere this season regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game. Their season was lost when they failed to show up against a last-place Dolphins team in a must-win divisional matchup the week prior. So lighten up, and let the man show some pride and have a little fun.
The naysayers claim Johnson cost the Bills the game not once, not twice, but three times in the Meadowlands.
I say the Bills’ defense and special teams deserves far more blame. And don’t let Ryan Fitzpatrick walk away scot-free, either.
It’s so easy to make the argument that had Johnson shown some restraint following his touchdown or had caught the wide-open pass with the Bills driving down the field that the outcome of the game could have been different.
Before the penalty and the dropped pass, Johnson was having one of the best games of his career against arguably football’s best defensive player in Derrelle Revis. He made the typically gloomy and rechid Revis Island look like a tropical family vacation destination.
Much has been made about the botched squib kick that was a direct result of Johnson’s penalty that handed the Jets prime field position. But what about the Bills’ consistently terrible defense? They’re the ones who ultimately allowed Mark Sanchez, of all people, to toss for four touchdowns. They’re the ones who left Burress wide open in the endzone as the Jets tied the game heading into halftime. Had George Wilson and Da’Norris Searcy learned how to cover slant routes in practice last week, we may be talking about a win.
And what about Fitz?
Our new “franchise quarterback” missed a wide-open Johnson in the endzone for a touchdown that would have won the game. Yes, it was a difficult throw made on the run from Fitz, but the ball was thrown significantly behind Johnson who had once again made a great move to fool Revis and get open. Peyton Manning would have put that ball into the numbers to win the game. I’m just sayin’.
Listen, I’m not trying to bash anyone in particular. This collapse of the Bills is just another in a long line of abysmal football seasons played under terrible ownership. It has been a collective team effort to fall apart once again. My point is there are multiple Bills who should shoulder just as much blame as Johnson for the loss. Johnson’s miscues are simply magnified due to his questionable decision to celebrate a touchdown.
As for his value to this franchise, the question arises asking if Johnson is really worth the contract of a top-tier receiver in this league.
Some have stated that after Sunday the Bills may be best served to let Johnson walk after the season rather than pay him No. 1-receiver dollars. This mindset is not only absurd, it is the epitome of why this franchise has failed to make the playoffs in what will now be twelve years.
And while I remain convinced Johnson may not be worth the hefty value of the Andre Johnsons or Larry Fitzgeralds of the world, I can’t state enough how ill-advised it would be for the Bills to allow Johnson to leave after this season. Why is it such a terrible thing to pay a little cash for a star player who has consistently benefitted the team far more than he has hurt it during his time here?
I mean, the Bills haven’t had a receiver of Johnson’s caliber since Andre Reed (sorry, Eric Moulds), and all blemishes aside, he proved that against Revis this past Sunday.
After handing over that lofty and misguided (that’s a topic for another time) contract to Fitz, it is imperative now more than ever that this franchise provide their quarterback with the best weapons as possible and, in my mind, Johnson is without a doubt one of them.
The overall point to this article is this: Johnson’s value to this franchise is immense and should not be taken for granted due to a questionable decision.
Do we all prefer the guy who acts like he’s been there before and simply flips the ball over to the ref? Maybe. Mark outlines that well in his post. But sports teams need guys like Johnson to thrive. They have for years (see Owens, Terrell; Rodriguez, Alex and James, LeBron). It’s what the media lives off of. And it’s been a long, long time since the Bills have had a guy like that (excluding T.O. of course. But he doesn’t count due to his short tenure with the Bills).
Stevie is presumably here for the long run, and it’s refreshing to have a guy like that be part of a franchise that otherwise fails in epic proportions time and time again to provide us with any other sort of decent entertainment.
You almost certainly don’t agree with Brandon’s opinion on this matter, so please, let him hear about it in the comment box or be sure to follow him on Twitter @THWGoldSchlager and express your distaste.