"How was he so wide open?"
Time after time after time, I asked myself that question watching Andre Johnson.
The Texans receiver was always the best player on his offense. Everybody on the opposing defense knew it, but it very often didn't matter, and Number 80 would find himself all by his lonesome, pulling in another pass from Matt Schaub and moving the chains for the Texans offense.
Now, Johnson's a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The news came out Thursday afternoon, and it's not a surprise to anyone who watched him play over the years.
Johnson cracked the 1,500-yard mark in a season on three different occasions. In what became a lost season in 2013, as the Texans dropped their final 14 in a row, Johnson still managed 1,407 receiving yards, as Schaub, T.J. Yates, Case Keenum, and then Schaub again threw passes his way.
Check out the 80 best photos of Andre Johnson throughout his Houston Texans career.
Whenever I'm asked about Johnson on the field, the first thing I remember is him getting wide open so often. A scout I spoke with back in 2011 pointed to Johnson's footwork and consistency pre-snap as a main reason why. In reading his body language, eyes and stance, defenders could never gauge whether or not the Texans were running or passing. On top of that, they never had an idea of the route Johnson would run. Combine that ability to mask what was to come, along with a 6-3, 229-pound frame and speed that once won him a Big East title in the 100-meter dash, and it was nearly unfair for opposing defenders.
It's why he came down with the late touchdown at Washington in 2010.
It's why he torched the Jaguars for 14 catches, 273 yards and a walk-off overtime score in 2012 at NRG Stadium.
It's why he bounced a Cardinals linebacker, then took the souls of two more Arizona defensive backs on a touchdown there in 2009.
I can continue with the "It's whys if you'd like, but the bottom line is this: Andre Johnson and his 1,062 catches for 14,185 yards and seven Pro Bowl nods belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The vote will happen the weekend of the Super Bowl in early February, and he's deserving of a gold jacket. It didn't matter who threw him the ball: he got open and he caught it.
For over a decade, he was one of the very best players in the NFL, and he should soon join the best ever with a bust in Canton, Ohio.