On Sunday, I weighed in on why I disagree with Tim Ryan, the former Bears defensive tackle and current FOX analyst who was the only All-Pro voter who didn’t cast a vote for Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. On Monday, Ryan called me and gave me his explanation.
Even though I criticized his vote, Ryan was perfectly pleasant and cordial in our conversation, and he said that his vote shouldn’t be construed as a knock on Johnson.
“I love Calvin Johnson. I’ve got tremendous respect for him. If I had known it was going to create such a stir I may have just voted for him. I don’t know,” Ryan said.
Still, Ryan said that Bears receiver Brandon Marshall and Bengals receiver A.J. Green, both of whom scored 11 touchdowns to Johnson’s five, were strong candidates and worthy of their spots on his All-Pro ballot. Ryan argued that as impressive as Johnson’s NFL record 1,964 receiving yards were, his lack of touchdowns were a mark against him.
“Breaking the Jerry Rice yardage record? Awesome. Jerry had 15 touchdowns that year,” Ryan said. “If I would have just done it based on numbers because he broke the record, I would have given it to Calvin. But when I was doing it — and maybe I don’t know the criterea — my feeling was, the two guys [Marshall and Green] had twice as many touchdowns with less targets.”
Ryan worked the Lions’ games against the Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals in 2012, and those were not among Johnson’s best games. Ryan allowed that seeing those games may have made him discount Johnson, and he also said he was particularly impressed with Marshall when working the Seahawks-Bears game, in which Marshall had 10 catches for 165 yards, including a 56-yard catch to set up a game-tying field goal at the end of the fourth quarter.
“I also did the Bears-Seattle game where Brandon Marshall was all they had and they still got him the ball and he was able to make it happen,” Ryan said.
In the end, Ryan doesn’t want his vote to suggest that he doesn’t view Johnson as one of the NFL’s elite receivers.
“Calvin Johnson’s a great player,” Ryan said.
But in Ryan’s view, he’s a great player who was the NFL’s third-best wide receiver in 2012.