Do not get me wrong, Calvin Johnson is the best receiver this side of the year 2005, he has multiple records (most receiving yards in a four quarter game, most seasons with 1600+ receiving yards, most receiving yards in a single season, and most games with 200+ receiving yards), and he will be remembered as a great, even if he decided to retire tomorrow. The problem is with the records that everyone pays attention to such as receiving yards in a career, receptions in a career, and touchdowns in a career. Calvin Johnson is nowhere near Jerry Rice in those categories and has almost no chance of ever being there.
Calvin Johnson turned 27 in September; after last week’s record setting performance against the Dallas Cowboys (329 yards, one touchdown) he has 535 receptions, 61 touchdowns, and 8,657 reception yards. Jerry Rice retired at the age of 43 ending his career with 1549 receptions, 22,895 receiving yards and 208 touchdowns.
To put that in perspective for you, if Calvin Johnson had 1,000 receiving yards every year for the next fourteen years (which would be the record for most consecutive seasons with 1,000+ yards, over Jerry Rice’s 11) he would still be short of Jerry Rice’s record for receiving yards. If Calvin Johnson also had 90 receptions every year for the next decade he would still be short by over 100 receptions. Who holds the record for most seasons with 90+ receptions? You guessed it, Jerry Rice with six.
Need I go on with touchdowns? Yes? Ok. Since you asked, Jerry Rice retired with 208 all-purpose touchdowns, but only 197 were receiving touchdowns, so for Calvin Johnson’s sake, I’ll stick with reception touchdowns. Calvin Johnson averages nine touchdowns a season; if he does that for the next fifteen years he will surpass Jerry Rice in touchdowns. Hey, guess who holds the record for most consecutive seasons with 9+ touchdowns? Jerry Rice, and he only had 10 consecutive seasons. So if Calvin Johnson did have 9+ TD’s for the next fifteen seasons he would also break Jerry Rice’s record for most consecutive seasons with 9+ TD’s.
Now, if we were going off of the last two and a half seasons, Calvin Johnson has had the best two and a half seasons in NFL history with over 4,400 yards and 29 Touchdowns. Jerry Rice’s best two and a half seasons were ‘94/’95 and the first eight weeks of ’96 with 3600 yards and 30 Touchdowns. So yes, Calvin Johnson is having the best two-year performance ever by any wide receiver in the history of the NFL, but will he ever surpass Jerry Rice? No.
However, if Calvin Johnson has the longevity of Jerry Rice and can perform 1,000 yard, ten touchdown, and 90 reception seasons for the next ten to fifteen years, then he may have a chance. But it will still be up to the people of the NFL and the fact that Calvin Johnson does only have Matthew Stafford passing to him, while Jerry Rice had Joe Montana for several years. In the meantime, as we wait and see, he will be fun to watch for (hopefully) many years to come!