Detroit Lions Lookback: Calvin Johnson, The 2008 season
Despite the futility of 2008’s 0-16 record, wide receiver Calvin Johnson still managed to put up some amazing statistics for the Detroit Lions.
A year that will be forever etched into the collective memories of Detroit Lions fans, 2008 is remembered for all of the wrong reasons. Now, nearly a full decade after cementing themselves on the wrong side of NFL history, the negative stigma from Detroit’s ”perfect” season still hovers over the fan base and organization like a black cloud.
Back then, head coach Rod Marinelli was entering his third season at the helm in Detroit hoping to improve upon the previous year’s 7-9 record.
Running the table that preseason and finishing undefeated at 4-0 provided the fans with a false sense of hope that 2008 would be the season that things would finally begin to turn in the favor of the perennial cellar dwellers.
The Lions had a triumvirate of quarterbacks start in their 16 games that year (Dan Orlovsky, Jon Kitna, Daunte Culpepper). Even the two Drews (Stanton and Henson) had appearances at quarterback for Detroit that year and one commonality that they all shared was having 6-5, 237 pound Calvin Johnson as a huge target to throw to.
Drafted number two overall in the 2007 NFL Draft, Calvin Johnson was a top prospect that year coming out of Georgia Tech. After a respectable rookie year, Calvin Johnson really burst onto the NFL scene in 2008. Starting in all 16 games for the first time in his career, he was targeted 150 times and came down with 78 receptions for 1,331 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.
Only Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith, and Roddy White had more receiving yards than Calvin Johnson that year and CJ’s dozen receiving touchdowns were tied for the NFL lead with Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. Now those were some pretty impressive numbers put up by a young receiver with a platoon of mediocre quarterbacks delivering him the ball!
No disrespect to those quarterbacks at all but this is the season wherein the first quarter of the Week 6 game versus the Minnesota Vikings, Dan Orlovsky unknowingly stepped out of the back of his own end zone which allowed defensive end, Jared Allen, the easiest safety of his career.
Even worse was the fact that the two points given up by Detroit during that safety was the margin of defeat in a 12-10 loss. The levels of ineptitude in 2008 were absolutely abysmal but through it all, Johnson was there to be a silver lining for Lions fans to look forward to during that long season.
Johnsons’ individual brilliance continued to dazzle in Detroit for another seven seasons after 2008 but unfortunately, injuries and the lack of team success caused Megatron to retire prematurely after the 2015 season.
Though Johnson is enjoying his life in retirement, he is still missed by fans. His absence is punctuated by the lukewarm (at best) relationship that he currently has with the organization due to having been forced to repay a portion of his roster bonus money prior to officially retiring.
Calvin Johnson should be and will be welcomed back to the Motor City by fans waiting with open arms after his relationship thaws with the organization but until that day comes we can still look back fondly at the great on-field moments that he provided us all with.
His excellence helped Detroit Lions fans through a terribly difficult season in 2008 and also helped to pave the way for the successes that Motown has had since their ”perfect” year.
I’m looking forward to Megatron’s return for the inevitable retirement of his number. His performance a decade ago was the jumping off point for his dominance.