By Shawn Lealos
CBS Local Sports presents 32 Players in 32 Days, a daily feature focusing on one impact player from each NFL team.
Andre Johnson – WR – #80
College: Miami, Florida
Things looked scary for the Houston Texans as the summer wore on. There are a lot of question marks for the team, but there are two legitimate superstars on the squad, and one of them refused to attend off-season workouts and minicamps. The fact is that Andre Johnson made it clear that he was tired of rebuilding every few seasons, tired of losing, and wanted Houston to trade him to a contender.
Luckily for the Houston Texans, Johnson not only showed up at training camp, but has been saying all the right things. Now, if the Texans want to win any football games in 2014, they need Johnson to buy into the new coaching staff and new quarterback and help them develop quickly. There is no one more important to the success of the Texans than their big wide receiver.
The Face of the Franchise
Andre Johnson is clearly the face of the Houston Texans franchise. He has been there since the beginning. He started out with David Carr throwing him the ball and the team failed to do much as an expansion franchise. Gary Kubiak then came to the team as the head coach and taught them how to win. He brought in Matt Schaub, who became a legitimate star, and Johnson flourished. It took a while, but Houston became one of the best teams in the AFC.
Things fell apart in 2013 and the team lost confidence in Schaub and Kubiak. One season after winning the division and making the playoffs for the second straight year, Houston fired Kubiak midway through 2013 and let Schaub walk away when the season ended. Andre Johnson was left standing, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to be the face of the franchise anymore.
The Texans made a curious move when they hired Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien to take over leadership of their team. While this is his first head coaching job in the NFL, he did work for Bill Belichick in New England for four seasons, so he knows his way around the NFL. Plus, he helped lead a Penn State team who had scholarships stripped away and had no chance of a bowl game possibility, and he made them a winning team.
However, O’Brien can’t win in the NFL if his best players don’t buy into his system. That is why getting someone big like Andre Johnson on board is so important for this team to move on.
The new quarterback of the Texans is Ryan Fitzpatrick. This should not send encouragement throughout Houston. Fitzpatrick was good for one season in Buffalo, earned a contract to make him their franchise quarterback and then lost his job due to bad performance. He went to Tennessee and lucked into playing time when Jake Locker was injured for the season. He did nothing to make anyone believe he is a franchise quarterback.
However, O’Brien named Fitzpatrick his starting quarterback without a training camp battle. Now is the time for him to step up and reward his coach’s confidence. The only way to do that is to develop a quick relationship with Andre Johnson. Over his career, Johnson has 927 receptions for 2,661 yards and 61 touchdowns. He is one of the best receivers in all of football. If he believes in O’Brien and works with Fitzpatrick, he can help Houston win. The Texans just need Andre Johnson to go all in for 2014.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.