Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Well, it's May, and that really doesn't mean much. Some months start off really well, but it seems like this month started off wrong for one person in particular...

Mere days after saying on national television how excited he was to start the grooming of new Panther's WR Dwayne Jarrett, Keyshawn Johnson had the proverbial rug pulled out from under him. The veteran and vociferous Panther's wideout was cut by Carolina on Monday, thus ending any chance he had of taking young Mr. Jarrett under his wing and raising another in a proud line of loud, annoying, me-first receivers. It just seems unfathomable to see something like this happen to someone who is just so goshdarn likable, but as I dove deeper into the issue, I came to a startling realization: Keyshawn Johnson is one of the few remaining of a dying breed. The time has come where the tall, possession receiver is just not going to cut it anymore.

Keyshawn should not feel bad at his situation, because it is going to happen to a lot of people like him in the coming years, and the reason is because wide receiver turnover from a team standpoint is enormous. Teams go through receivers like the average person goes through cereal, and the last thing you want is a stale box of "Me-shawn Flakes" stinking up your cereal cabinet. Generally speaking, most teams carry 5 wideouts. Ambitious teams carry 6, and stupid teams carry 7. That leaves a lot of room for turnover due to competition, injury, age, the draft, disloyalty, and TO. Wide receivers also suffer from an illness in that they aren't the cure. Teams (the good ones, anyway) do not make it a habit of building the franchise around a wide receiver (Matt Millen!) as much they do a QB, RB, or even some defenders. As such, a dying breed like Keyshawn's is subject to the axe, as good ol' Me-shawn found out today.

So what exactly is Keyshawn's breed that is dying? It's a derivative of the Michael Irvin School of Football and Citizenship. Essentially, the main lesson is that self-promotion is the only way to get ahead in this world. Others may have to suffer, but that's OK, because they're essentially useless anyway. If you aren't catching the ball, the QB is clearly not getting the ball to you, and the coach is not calling enough plays featuring you. When this happens, it is customary to yell at all listeners on the sidelines and embarrass the crap out of your team. If needed, make sure your problems with the team spill over into the locker room; call out teammates by name, challenge the coaches in meetings, and even criticize the city. It may cost you fans, but the media will love you, and that, after all, is how you get ahead for good. You know you can't play football forever, so you have to make sure everybody remembers you during your time in the League, because you never know when ESPN, CBS, NBC, FOX, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU, or ESPNDeportes will come calling.

Aside from the social and mental aspects of the antiquated wide receiver, the Neverus Shutupamus (Latin name) possesses a pretty standard skill set. Since they play a pretty one-dimensional position, it became easy for the taller, stronger men to separate themselves from their shorter and weaker counterparts. As a whole, the Keyshawns of the world fell into the Run Route, Catch Ball, Repeat as Necessary routine, and for a while it worked quite well. The problem was , they couldn't prevent aging.

Soon enough, this type of receiver got old, and started dropping balls (TO), or couldn't run as fast as they once could (Randy Moss). The possession receiver has been replaced by speedier receivers, who, once they catch the ball, can make a defender miss. Pundits call this "explosiveness". These receivers aren't nearly as tall or as strong, but they make bigger plays. Tall receivers like Keyshawn, TO, and Moss can't function in today's high-tech, West Coast offenses because they are deep threats. The West Coast offense is the tortoise's offense, not the hare's, and the deep ball doesn't need to be thrown (which begs the question "why are teams so concerned with their QB's arm strength?"). West Coast offenses would rather throw the safe five yard pass to a speedy receiver, and let their shifty moves, agility, and quickness take the ball the rest of the way.

This safe approach to offense has made short, quick receivers like Steve Smith, Marvin Harrison, Mark Clayton, Anquan Boldin, Torry Holt, and Chad Johnson en vouge. The bonus is that they can all catch the deep ball if need be. That leaves the poor receivers of yesteryear relegated to goal line duty, where their use is to run a route in the back of the endzone that will fool the defense just long enough for the running back to go untouched into the endzone. Every once in a while a ball will be thrown their way, and that ball will have to serve enough to stroke their ego for the time being.

So what happens to Keyshawn now that nobody is going to give him the damn ball? He'll probably be signed by a WR-needy team (or New England, who is trying to hoard up all the WRs), and end up retiring after the season. I'm sure he can find work in the TV studio. He did a great job for ESPN this weekend, except for that part about grooming Dwayne Jarrett...


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