Just Get Off His Damn Back

The recent snipping and backbiting between Michael Irvin and Keyshawn Johnson, while comical, is confusing at best. What purpose is being served other than two, enormously large egos and their quest for record book supremacy?

First off, can we all agree on a couple of "givens?" When Keyshawn decides to hang up the cleats and call it quits, their overall career stats will look very similar.

Cowboys fans can only hope the Super Bowl championship ledger on Keyshawn's resume (Michael currently has him 3 to 1) is raised before retirement sets in. The other slam-dunk fact boasts Michael Irvin will always be viewed as thee #1 receiver in Dallas history. If for some reason Michael fears losing this moniker, in the eyes of the faithful, he should lose no sleep and move on to other important NFL matters.

How does one define the attributes of a No. 1 receiver? Reliability? Production? A combination of both? If neither, a definition is most necessary, but then again, in the grand scheme of things, what does it really matter? Appears to be TV fodder and nothing more. However, Keyshawn will tell you the Irvin commentary is ultimately costing him in the pocketbook. Hmmm. Irvin wants to retain organizational supremacy while Keyshawn wants to be paid. No wonder the boys are a little sensitive.

What does matter is Keyshawn Johnson's place within the Dallas Cowboys. Nay Sayers will exist regardless of what stats ultimately bare out, and Johnson's self-imposed departure from Jon Gruden's sideline ingratiates him to very few, but the man can flat-out play football. By trade, and description, he's a NFL receiver. Sources such as NFL.com and team media guides inform us so. Monumental injustice. Keyshawn Johnson is a "complete" football player.

Fortunately for Bill Parcells, who allows Johnson to be himself, Keyshawn loves playing for Big Bill and respects him even more. Not every NFL coach could co-exist with the former #1 overall selection coming out of the University of Southern California. Respect is a huge need for Johnson, and if you aren't giving it to him, rest assured no loving is coming back. Parcells has publicly admitted Keyshawn will do anything you ask him to do. From a purely coaching perspective, what's not to like?

When is the last time you've seen a NFL receiver, be it a legit #1 or a single member within a stable of #2's, line up as a lead blocker? Mind you, lining up is one thing, but actually executing the blocking assignments being a different animal altogether. While rather impressive, the true measuring stick of any NFL receiver is both the propensity and ability to block down field, away from the line of scrimmage. It's as much what they do without the ball as with it. How willing is an undersized flanker to seal off an inside or outside linebacker? Certainly not a welcomed assignment for all receivers in the League. Ask any breakaway running back the value of a WR who will throw on a free or strong safety to catapult the RB to pay dirt.

Like him or not, Keyshawn Johnson is all these things in one package, and all his attributes are exhibited traits without the ball in hand. It could be argued #19 is even more dangerous with the rock. He has great hands and rarely drops the ball while making the reception. A polished route runner with tremendous concentration. He always seems to know exactly where the sticks are and will run his routes to satisfy and acquire first down yardage. With ball in hand and the first down markers in sight, he'll willingly lower a shoulder and plow through a would-be tackler or two. His only knock? Protecting the football, and even this hasn't appeared to be much of a problem prior to this year. Most drops usually coincide with hard contact, and hopefully it's just an aberration and not a game-altering trend.

Like a key cog in any well-oiled machinery or operation, what's the impact of absence? Take Keyshawn Johnson out of the offensive equation. Is the loss tremendously felt or easily minimized? Is he an interchangeable part? Are there others waiting in line to step in and deliver the same package outlined above? In looking over the current offensive roster, the immediate answer is not quite. So, does this equate to Keyshawn being worthy of a #1 designation? Better yet, does it matter? What's a given is he's needed and needed on a grandiose scale.

Keyshawn's "knocks" rarely come from on-field play. They usually surface from sideline or off-the-field commentary. He's going to speak his mind, and he'll never duck an issue. While handled in different ways, shapes and forms, he's a "stand up" guy. If crawling into a battle-riddled foxhole, know his library card for giving all is golden. Chances are if he lives to tell about the fight, he'll certainly tell it all. Like it or not. A small price to pay for battlefield contributions. He won't run when the bullets fly.

If you read and hear similarities between Key and The Playmaker, then your eyes and ears aren't deceiving you. They're so similar they're different. Just ask them. All of which makes their attempts to create separation amongst themselves all the more laughable. Two competitive, extremely competitive, guys looking to do what any worthwhile NLF wide out would do………call for the ball.

Furthermore, only the foolish would fail to cater to the willing. Give Keyshawn both the ball and his props. You'll spend all day trying to figure him out off the field, but there's no questioning his intentions on it. He could care less if you like him or not, and besides, in the total equation, what matters most is moving the chains. This he does and does well.

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