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Monday, November 9, 2009
Johnson's release is best for everyone

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson

The Kansas City Chiefs just cut a player who was one decent game away from becoming the team’s all-time leading rusher, and it seems like it’s the right move for everybody.

It is time for Larry Johnson to leave Kansas City.
 
 G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images
 Larry Johnson was just 75 yards away from breaking Priest Holmes' team rushing record.


Both sides tried to make it work, but the new Kansas City regime did Monday what it probably should have done in the spring. At least everyone knows the Chiefs gave Johnson a chance to finish his career with them.

Now both the Chiefs and Johnson will move on. And they probably won’t miss each other.

Off the field, Johnson remained a distraction, and on it, Johnson, who turns 30 this month, wasn’t giving the young team much. The 1-7 Chiefs clearly weren’t giving Johnson any motivation.

The Chiefs probably have been planning Monday’s move since Oct. 28, when they suspended Johnson for Sunday’s game at Jacksonville after he made gay slurs and questioned the credentials of Kansas City coach Todd Haley. Last year, Johnson was suspended four games by the Chiefs and the NFL after two separate incidents involving women in Kansas City nightclubs.

General manager Scott Pioli and Haley were impressed by Johnson’s work ethic in the spring when he was committed to the team’s offseason program. In July, Johnson, who in the past asked to be traded from Kansas City, said he was re-energized because of Pioli and Haley.

But the losses started piling up for Kansas City in the first half of the season and Johnson was ineffective because of a combination of him wearing down and a porous Kansas City offensive line. He has 358 yards on this season and was averaging 2.71 yards per carry. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Johnson’s per-carry average this season is the fourth worst in NFL history for players with 100 or more carries.

Johnson is clearly no longer the same back he was in 2006, when he set an NFL record with 416 carries. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Johnson’s per-carry average in that special season was 4.7; since it has been 3.7.

Still, despite his decline, Johnson, a No. 1 pick in 2003, was close to becoming the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. He was 75 yards from breaking Priest Holmes’ team record.

Holmes is still revered in Kansas City, while Johnson has been vilified because of his long history of off-field issues. Many Kansas City fans voiced their displeasure about Johnson last week and wanted him to be released. Some fans began a petition to urge the Chiefs not to allow Johnson to break Holmes’ record.

The team listened and it will move on with youngsters Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith. The two didn’t do much Sunday at Jacksonville when they were just temporary Johnson replacements. Now Johnson is in Kansas City’s rearview mirror and Charles and Smith need to step up their game.

If they don’t, Kansas City will be able to live with it. Johnson is no longer a Chief and that appears to be the best scenario for everyone involved.