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Warpaint Illustrated Columnist
Posted Oct 10, 2007
People often say money can change someone, but no one ever says money can make someone a less effective running back. However, Chiefs fans are now grumbling after Larry Johnson’s slow start, and many are saying that very thing – that since Johnson got his payday he isn’t running as hard and appears sluggish and slow.
It’s easy to point to something like a new contract, but the entire situation is purely coincidental.
It’s painfully obvious that Johnson doesn’t appear to be the same angry runner as he was in the past, a player who once actually warranted a gloss like “The Centaur.” In fact, these days, “Molasses” is probably more befitting. The Johnson of 2005 and 2006 is all but a distant memory.
That’s not to say he can’t and won’t regain his earlier form, because he will, but it doesn’t start with him. Larry is still Larry. It starts with what is currently the worst run blocking offensive line in the league. Therein lays the reason why Johnson looks so slow and all kidding aside, he looks incredibly slow, almost as if he were just doing a walk through.
There are only a handful of running backs in history who were able to thrive with a line as inept as Kansas City’s is right now. The first one who comes to mind is Barry Sanders. His greatness was exalted further by the fact that his line, for so many years, was complete garbage.
Many wonder what sort of numbers Sanders would have put up playing with a line like
enjoyed in Dallas. Simply put, his legacy wouldn’t be what it is today. The numbers would probably be there, even a few championships to boot, but the name wouldn’t be synonymous with “the greatest.”
Johnson, while at times over the past couple of seasons has flashed some greatness, did it in an Smith-like manner. He ran behind arguably one of the 10 best offensive lines in the history of the league, featuring two first ballot Hall of Famers. He had gaps, alleys, causeways, and canyons to run through and once he broke the first line of defense, fans saw the transformation from man to half-man, half-horse. Linebackers and safeties were practically defenseless and often left with hoof prints on their tattered jerseys.
Johnson was spoiled. The coaches were spoiled. The fans were spoiled - spoiled more rotten than a chunk of year-old limburger.
Now Johnson is taking the brunt of the blame and some are even clamoring for the return of Priest Holmes. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but even the great Priest Holmes wouldn’t be effective with the offensive line in its current state.
Against Jacksonville, the coaching staff was passing just enough to get the linebackers to back off. Several times, the offensive line simply had to win their one-on-one matchups in order open a hole. They failed miserably in what would turn out to be the second-lowest rushing output in franchise history.
Nobody is taking the situation more seriously than Johnson. He’s frustrated and it’s understandable. While leaving the field of play before the game is officially over is never a wise move, it doesn’t mean Johnson doesn’t care and is content collecting ridiculous paychecks.
To question his desire and reverence for the game is unwarranted and downright asinine. His knowledge of the game is unrivaled by many young players, and he carried the ball over 400 times last year without blinking once. There were games where he had to be hurting, but he was out there carrying the Chiefs on his back to a playoff berth.
It’s amazing how quickly everyone forgets. In this era of “what have you done for me lately?” it’s really time to ask, “Who have you blocked lately?”
Larry Needs Some Pie
Oct 15, 2007
Fixing KC’s Run Game
Oct 17, 2007
Johnson Must Lead in San Diego
Sep 26, 2007
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