Before Calvin Johnson or Jerry Rice, there was Houston Oilers Wide Receiver Charles "Charley" Hennigan.
You may not know Charley, but in 1961 he set the NFL single season record for receiving yards with 1,746. Oh, and Charley did it in a 14 game season on 82 receptions (21.3 avg).
I only bring up Mr. Hennigan for added perspective as Calvin Johnson tries to break this same record currently held by Jerry Rice at 1,848 yards. Johnson is 181 yards behind Rice with two games left in the regular season. Tonight in a special Saturday Night Fooball game on ESPN (8:30pm EST), Johnson could break the record at home versus the Atlanta Falcons. Remember, he posted a 207 yard game earlier this season in November versus the Vikings. So while it's not likely, it's possible that NFL fans will see a record broken tonight.
As an NFL fan, I really enjoy watching a player chase records, for that reason I wanted to provide you with a comparison between Jerry Rice and Calvin Johnson. I will focus on the first 14 games of Rice's record breaking season in 1995 (with Hennigan's season included). I will also take a look at some career comparison later on in this blog post.
Here is how all three wide receivers stack up after 14 games:
The first thing that jumps out at me in this table, is that Rice is so far behind Hennigan and Johnson after 14 games. The other thing that is clear, is that Hennigan was flat out dominate during the 1961 season. Hennigan's average per reception was head and shoulders above Rice and Johnson, and he had the best rate of receptions per touchdown with 6.8.
You may be wondering how Jerry Rice broke this record with only two games left while being 340 yards behind. The answer .. Rice absolutely destroyed the Vikings in week 15 with, 14 receptions for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns. By the way, San Francisco needed all the help it could get that week, as the pulled out the win 37-30. Going into the final week of the season, Rice needed just 52 yards to break the record. Coincidentally, Rice faced the Falcons that week. While the Niners lost the game 27-28, Rice easily broke the record with 12 receptions for 153 yards. He finished the season with 1,848 yards receiving (115.5 YPG) with 15 touchdowns (plus 1 rushing touchdown).
At Calvin Johnson's current pace, he will break the record with approximately 1,905 yards. If Johnson breaks the record tonight, it will be the 2nd time the Falcons have allowed this record to be broken against them. My guess is, the Falcons don't want to be that team twice.
On the season, the Falcons allow 229.5 passing yards per game (151 yards to opposing WR's per game). They have only allowed three wide receivers to break the century mark this year, with the highest total going to Lance Moore (NO) in week 13 with his 123 yards. Johnson has faced the Falcons twice in his career. Last season he posted 5 receptions for 115 yards (1 TD), and back in 2008 he produced 7 receptions for 107 yards. That's a pretty good track record for Johnson versus the Falcons. The Falcons won't make it easy, but I wouldn't bet against Johnson.
In the opinions of most around football, Calvin "Megatron" Johnson is the best wide receiver in the NFL right now. So, why not compare Johnson's first six seasons with Rice's first six seasons.
Here is how they matchup:
You can see that Rice leads in most categories, except receptions. PLEASE NOTE - Johnson still has the two remaining games to finish his 6th season. The biggest difference is in touchdowns. There's nothing to be ashamed of for Johnson, Rice is the All-Time leader in touchdowns. If Johnson is similar to Rice and continues to excel well into his 30's, he'll definitely have a shot to approach some of Rice's career numbers. Remember, Rice set the single season record for receiving yards at the age of 33.
This blog post started by discussing Charles Hennigan. I'll be honest with you, I didn't know much if anything about Charley before putting together this post. That said, I'm extremely glad that I was able to educate myself on his career. He deserves the attention.
Charley Hennigan played 7 seasons in the AFL (NFL) all with the Houston Oilers. He finished his career with: 410 receptions, 6,823 yards (16.6 avg), and 51 touchdowns (Per NFL.com). He still holds the NFL record for games in a season with 200 or more receiving yards with 3 (during his 1961 record season). He is tied with Michael Irvin and Calvin Johnson for most consecutive games of 100 or more receiving yards with 7 (Johnson can break this record tonight as well if he has another 100 yard game).
To this day, only Jerry Rice (1,848) and Isaac Bruce (1,781) have had more receiving yards in a single season than Charley.
Either tonight or next week, Calvin Johnson will most likely break the record of Jerry Rice. While NFL fans celebrate Johnson's achievements, let's also reflect and learn about those who came before him.
Enjoy the game tonight, I know I will. As always, thank you for following my blog.