When my cousin was about five (this was back in the mid eighties) , he didn't go far without an autobot or decepticon in his hands. He was one of hundreds of thousands of kids who were there for the introduction of something that has endured to this day--Transformers. Transformers are still as popular (if not more so) today as they were back then. There have been toys, animated tv series, movies, trading cards...just about everything that kids hold dear have had Transformers on them including clothes, bed sheets, shoes and lunch boxes!! It is quite a phenomena and I think the lasting effect is because it is yet another rendition of the epic battle of good versus evil. That battle has legs. It transcends race, gender, age, height, weight, sexual orientation and any other protected class you can think of (and also any that you can't). It's one of the few things that can unite the masses.
Why is Aiken waxing nostalgic about Transformers? It's all the references around here recently to Megatron. Megatron is the leader of the decpticons and he is one evil and bad dude. He also happens to be a pretty good Wide Receiver that plays for the Detroit Lions. With the passing of the deadline for signing DBowe to a long term contract and the ensuing discussion of his worth, I noticed quite a few fans who keep saying that Dwayne Bowe is no Megatron. Really? Well who needs to be Megatron when you're Optimus Prime?
Optimus Prime is the antithesis of Megatron. He's the good versus the evil in the world of the Transformers. Now, I'm not here to convince you that Bowe is good and Johnson is evil. Stories about importing women, showing up to camp so out of shape and overweight that a restricted substance (to lose weight) wound up costing a four game suspension, and getting your picture associated with a strip club party are all things I leave to the readers sensibilities in determining good or evil. What I am here to discuss though, is the value of these two players.
Why? Well, I think it's important to really distinguish the differences between them so that we can truly base our opinions on the statistical facts rather than the knee jerk opinion that Bowe drops too many 'clutch' passes (or for some, just passes in general), or isn't a good route runner (when the average fan wouldn't know a drag route from route 66) and therefore he isn't worth Megatron money. I am so sick of hearing these 'reasons' because it's just an easy (and potentially inaccurate) way to keep your chair around the campfire where they are burning Bowe jerseys. At the, you know, "Bowe-is-asking-for-too-much-money-or-otherwise-he'd-be-signed" campground.
First we don't know what Bowe was asking for. Second, Bowe is worth a lot of money. Today. In this market. Period. Now some fans think that 9.5 million dollars is a lot of money. That is a perception. The problem with any perception is that it may not actually reflect reality. If you compare 9.5 milliion to 20 million, 9.5 no longer seems like such a lot, does it? How about 50 or 60 million? See how small that 9.5 can become? In fact, if you compare 9.5 million to one billion, the 9.5 million becomes insignificant. Just ask any politician how much 9.5 million is worth worrying about when they play with Billions (of our money but let's not get started on that). Meaningless. At least in that context. The point is that all these numbers are subjective and it's very hard to assign a value to these players and determine what's fair.
I've already written about the reasons why Bowe is not only entitled to, but deserves his fair share of the NFL revenue machine. You'll find that here. A couple days ago, I had a fan challenge my assertion that Bowe could conceivably wind up in the top 20-40 of all time receivers in this league. That fan figured I hadn't done my homework and I was just spouting unsubstantiated opinion. What he/she didn't know is that I have indeed done my homework. Bowe is worth a lot of money. Let's pry the lid off this can of worms. It's time to go fishing.
Calvin Johnson. According to some, the finest WR in the league today. He certainly got paid as if that was true. Eight years, 132 million with 60 million guaranteed. Whoa. That is some fat stack. Brees only got 60 million guaranteed and I think that most would agree at this point that he is definitely a shoe in for the HOF. Johnson is good, but right now you can't really make that same argument. He has the potential and he is on track, but there is a big gap still to be filled in before he can be mentioned in the same way.
So how'd he get that money? It was the perception in Detroit (at least by whoever holds the purse) that it was worth it to keep Calvin in Detroit as a lifer. Good for Calvin and hopefully, good for the Lions. The results of this contract though have far reaching consequences. It helps define the market and what a player should be worth on that market. If Calvin is considered top cookie in the jar right now, then you have to compare the rest to him when making deals for paying them for their services. This is where Bowe falls short right? Uh, not so fast.
Here's Calvin's stats:
First of all, disregard where the headings receiving and rushing wound up at the top, just use the red column headings for reference. At first blush you say "easy", Calvin has more yards and more TDs in the same number of seasons so Calvin is far and away the better receiver. While Calvin does have more and better in most categories, one must ask the question why since these two players do the same thing but under very different circumstances. How they arrived at this point is very important in the overall scheme of determining their value.
Dwayne and Calvin both entered the league in 2007. Both played their rookie seasons with veteran QBs on the roster, but only one signal caller was the primary full time starter. I am sure you will remember that the Chiefs played both Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle during 2007 when the team was searching (in year two of Herm's tenure) for a starter. Damon started 10 games to Brodies six. The two combined for a whopping 3181 yards, completing 335 out of 563 attempts (59.5%) for 17 TDs and 20 ints that year on their way to a 4-12 record (let's not talk about that too much, it pains the brain to remember those dark times). During that time, LJ, Kolby Smith and Jackie Battle combined for the lion's share (no pun intended) of rushing yards and combined for 1103 yds. Gawd we stunk. Is it fair to say that KC was swinging in the dark at that time, looking for an identity?
Somehow, through all that, Bowe managed to have a very nice rookie season. DBowe had 70 catches for 995 yards and 5 TDs. Tony Gonzalez was the only receiver with better stats that season with 1199 yds, 99 receptions and 5 TDs. If you gotta get beat, I guess a future HOFer is the one to pick, right? The other Chiefs WRs that season didn't even come close to what Bowe did. Could it be said that Bowe and TG made Croyle relevant? I know that's a stretch, but what if all he had was Jeff Webb, Samie Parker and Eddie Kennison? Given his tendency to get hurt, Brodie may have left the team much sooner than he actually did.
Detroit wasn't much better on the ground. Kevin Jones, TJ Duckett and Tatum Bell combined for 1098 rushing yards. Yuck. Calvin though, played on a team with a QB that was a bit more accurate. Kitna started all 16 games for the Lions that season and completed 355 ot of 561 attempts (63.3%) for 4068 yards. He was sixth in the league that season in passing yards, even logging more yards than Peyton Manning! Incidentally, Kitna's sixth place finish that season was also one spot behind Carson Palmer who threw for 4131 yards. If you've been wondering what Carson is capable of, this should give you an idea. If the Raaaayduh's can field three healthy WRs this season, Carson can make a defense pay--but I digress.
Kitna's Lions went 7-9 that season, but not for the lack of good receivers. Their receiving corps was made up of Shaun MacDonald, Mike Furrey, Roy E. Williams and Calvin Johnson. How did Calvin fare? He came in third out of those four with 756 yds and 4 TDs. Very decent season for a rookie...but is it worth 132 million? Even when Bowe had more yards and TDs in his rookie campaign? On a team devoid of a competent passer?? Eh...are you still sure that Bowe ain't no Megatron??? Let's keep going.
Year two. Detroit joins KC in QB disaster land. Kitna started only four games that season for Detroit. He went down to IR in week five and the Lions went 0-16. In KC, things weren't a whole lot better. Newly hired OC Chan Gailey presided over a circus at QB in his first season. Per Wikipedia:
Croyle started the first game of the 2008 season for the Chiefs, but again suffered an injury and was replaced by Huard. In Week 2, Huard started but suffered a concussion and was replaced by Tyler Thigpen, a seventh-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Thigpen started the Chiefs' Week 3 game before Huard returned for Weeks 4 and 5. Croyle returned after the bye week in Week 7 to start, was injured again, and replaced by Huard, who suffered a thumb injury. He was placed on injured reserve the next week, ending his season. The same week, Croyle was also placed on injured reserve, leaving Thigpen as the Chiefs' starter for the remainder of the season.
Good God and Ingle Martin! Does reading that give anybody but me a headache? Jack Daniels is in order and I ain't talking about the circuit court here!!
Seems that both Optimus Prime and Megatron had their backs up against the wall in 2008. Both teams had multiple QBs and both finally got their backfields down to two primary runners. In Detroit, Kevin Smith and Rudi Johnson combined for 1213 yards. In KC, Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles combined for 1231 yards.
Both Dwayne and Calvin started 16 games this season. Calvin, catching passes from two different QBs caught 78 passes for 1331 yards and 12 TDs, his single season high. Dwayne caught passes from three different QBs, made 86 receptions for 1022 yards and 7 TDs. Just another thousand yard walk in the park for D Bowe (and making Thigbone look good in the process...right?). By my calculations, Calvin now has 16 more yards receiving and four more TDs than DBowe after their first two seasons. That difference can be attributed to game planning just as much as prowess, yes? I mean, the difference after two seasons is sleight enough to say both have similar value, don't you think? Maybe? Awwww...c'mon.
For me, year three for these two wide outs has really been the defining point in their careers. Both have labored for two seasons under HCs that are no longer with their respective teams. Both have their third seasons coming up which are considered break out years in the NFL, and both have brand spanking new QBs. Calvin happens to be playing with an up and coming rookie (Mathew Stafford) that is trying to break into the NFL and a veteran (Daunte Culpepper) that is trying to come back from injury. Bowe is playing with a four year NFL veteran (Cassel) that has one season's experience as a starter due to his previous team's starter going down with injury.
Calvin has one QB known as an athlete who likes to run the ball when threatened and another who is purported to have a rocket arm. Bowe has a QB that is considered a game manager. Calvin's new HC has had success in the league as a defensive coordinator and has decided to bring in an up and coming OC (Scott Linehan) who is currently known as an offensive aerial attacker. Bowe's new HC is known as a bright offensive mind that wants to implement a run first, ball control offense. In fact, his idea of what kind of offense this will be is so rigid that he fires his existing OC just before the season begins! What different paths these two are about to take!
This is the year, IMO that Bowe makes an err that will ultimately cost him equal footing with Megatron in many fans minds. He shows up to camp out of shape, with a new HC that is willing to bench him for wearing the wrong socks. The ensuing training camp only provides more fodder for the Bowe boo birds, since Bowe decided to push the envelope and test Haley's resolve. Bowe was chastised for 'showing off' in camp when he would make the simplest of catches and basically rebelled against Haley's tightfisted authority. This gave many fans an impression that we in KC might just be dealing with a 'diva' after all.
By the time Bowe began to believe that Haley's bite was worse than his bark, it was getting very close to the start of the season and he decided to cheat to make weight. He took a controlled substance and the rest is history. Bowe was suspended four games. An NFL career is only so long and missing four games of it will do damage to your stats.
In Haley's first season, Bowe (for all his shenanigans) only got to play in 11 games and start 9. His production (like the rest of that sorry team) went into the dumper. 47 receptions for 589 yards and 4 TDs. He was actually out gained in yards that season by Chris Chambers (who in 9 games had 608 yards)!
Bowe must be Irish, or at least has the luck of the Irish because Megatron was having his own difficulties in Detroit. They were suffering through their own QB reset. Calvin held on through the tumult of three different starting QBs of his own and played 14 games that season (missing two due to injury), but his stats slipped in '09 as well. He had 67 catches for 984 yards and 5 TDs.
This is when Bowe fell behind his peer and that gap still exists today. Just how important was that suspension to Bowe's career? It just might be the reason that he isn't currently signed to a long term deal. If I'm Bowe, I have to at least blame myself for some of that. It may also be the reason that he is willing to hold out, because he knows that he most likely won't get another chance to capitalize on what he has done.
The next season of course was fantastic for them both. Stafford and Cassel has their respective best seasons for their teams and both WRs responded. I'll refer you back to their tables to see their stats, but one important takeaway here is that Bowe led the league in TD receptions with 15. He also was in second place for TDs scored behind only Arian Foster with 18. What did this do for Bowe in the record books?
It is interesting to note that scoring 15 TDs in one season is not all that common. That total tied Dwayne for 19th place on the all time list for single season TDs. He shares that spot with names like T.O., Jerry Rice, Randy Moss (who's done this twice and currently has the single season record at 23), and Marvin Harrison. At the end of the 2010 season, Megatron had only been able to amass 12 TDs in any one season. How would you have valued Bowe at that time, given this information and the fact that Bowe was only about 100 yds per season less than Megatron when Calvin had actually played in one more game than Mr. Bowe had?
Calvin of course, scored 16 TDs last season--you think he was paying attention? That ties him at 14th with T.O., Mushin Muhammad, Art Powell and Braylon Edwards. Yes he bested Bowe, but it took him another year of incredible production on a team with a pass happy OC and a healthy QB. That's right, in 2010, Bowe's irish luck kicked in again when Stafford lost nearly an entire season due to a shoulder injury, slowing down Calvin once again.
Then in 2011, Bowe was stymied on an offense that once again lost it's starting QB and had to take the field with, wait for it--Tyler Palko at the helm. You see, here is the crux of why Bowe's numbers have lagged behind Calvin's--Bowe just hasn't had the firepower (at least consistently enough) to compete with what Calvin enjoyed last season in Detroit. Most recently, Bowe has been the receiver on a team that doesn't throw the ball quite as often or as well at Detroit either. Given those realities, I'd say Bowe has done pretty well. In fact, If you take the entire team situation into account, I'd say that Bowe is above average in the league--way above.
Calvin had over 1600 yards last year and 16 TDs. Bowe had Tyler Palko and no running game to take any pressure off an inexperienced QB. Still he managed 81 receptions, 1159 yds and 5 TDs. Yet another proverbial walk in the park, 1000 yard season. Consistency is huge in the NFL in determining value and Bowe has been about as consistent through all the ups and downs as you could ask. Bowe is worth a lot of money.
Ok, what else ya got Aiken? Here is the icing on the cake. I've already told you that Bowe has the potential of becoming a top 30 receiver of all time. Bowe currently sits at number 249 on that list with 4,927 yards. If he plays this season, he will most likely (if he stays healthy and plays for the current Chiefs team) have somewhere around 1000 yards. That would move him up to somewhere around 165 because that's where the 6000 yard break is.
Jerry Rice currently holds the career best at 22,895 yards. Many believe that this number will never be broken. He is, after all, holding his place over T.O. on that list by nearly 7000 yards. I don't think T.O. can catch him, but somebody eventually will. Anyway, I'm not putting Bowe in that kind of rarified air, but I do think that given Bowe's age and ability, he could easily retire with over 10,000 receiving yards.
Currently that group is only 36 players in the history of the NFL. If Bowe can have just five more seasons of his 'average' 1000 yard games, he easily joins the top 40 ever to play the game. That is a pretty selective club when you consider how many WRs have played this game in the last 75 years or so. If Bowe winds up on a different team for the second half of his career with a QB the likes of an Andrew Luck, or a Manning or a Brady or Brees, who knows how many yards he could have? IF he averaged 1200 yards a season he'd go over 11,000 and move into around 25th place or so. If he had one giant year in there it is conceivable that he would end up with over 12,000 yards and jump into a top 20 spot. That my friends, is worth a lot of money to a lot of teams in this league.
How does Bowe fair among active players? Glad you asked. On that list Bowe is currently 31st. Calvin at 1045 more yards is 24th. Why is this significant? Calvin is the only player on that list that is younger than Bowe. There are two others that are the same age (Brandon Marshall and Santonio Holmes). All the rest are older by at least months, but in most cases years. How expensive was that suspension again Mr. Bowe? I think it can be measured in dollars and cents right about now.
Oh well, no use crying over spilled milk. Or is there?
After all this comparison and speechifyun about what Dwayne is worth, it is also enlightening to look at the list of active leaders for receptions. It happens that Bowe and Calvin are right beside each other on this list. Calvin 36 and Dwayne 37. What I thought was most interesting was how far they are apart. After all those crazy seasons these two have gone through, they are only separated by 10 receptions! 366 for Calvin and 356 for Bowe. What's more telling is that with over 1000 more yards and 13 TDs for Calvin you can easily see why the knee jerk reaction is that he is much better than Bowe.
The reality, I think I have shown here, is that Bowe has not been in quite as good (for a WR anyway) situation as Calvin has been in Detroit, yet he has stayed pretty close to Calvin. What remains to be seen now is what happens going forward.
Bowe has certainly taken all of this into consideration concerning his current hold out. It makes sense to me that putting a season (and 9.5 million dollars) at risk is very well worth the possible reward. Who knows what Bowe is thinking? Maybe he is not only looking for that big payday, but he's looking to the future and trying to do what puts him in the best position to leave his mark on this league when he someday retires. It all goes into the mix, and given the gravity of how this season will affect the rest of his career, I don't think you can hold him to the fact that he told Joel he'd be in training camp. That's what you tell the media when you don't want to start a firestorm.
Given all this information, I think you almost have to agree that Bowe is worth more than a one year, no protection against career ending injury, salary cap enforced contract. Calvin got one and while Bowe may not match Calvin in stats, part of that fact may not be due to a lack of ability and skill on Bowe's part. Some of it is circumstance. I believe Bowe's value is much closer to Megatron that what most fans believe.
Unfortunately, because of the franchise tag, we'll never really know. Now we find out that the Chiefs tried to sign Reggie Wayne back in March. Combine this with the 'all quiet on the western front' atmosphere surrounding the talks between the Chiefs and Dwayne Bowe during the FA period and it makes you wonder if Bowe has had his plans laid for some time, yes?
Just like Optimus Prime, Bowe lives in today's NFL as an underdog. I kinda like rooting for the underdog. It's a whole lotta fun when the underdog comes out the victor--don't you think? Bowe ain't no Megatron? That's ok, Optimus is a good guy and I always liked having good guys in Chiefs uniforms. If he does in fact hold out and spoil the year for the Chiefs, I understand it. I won't like it, but I will understand it.
I hope Bowe is a Chief for a long time to come. Let the bad guy (Megatron) go to those filthy Raaaaayduh's...good God, what am I saying????