- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -– Chris Johnson's future with the Titans is question No. 1 as the new league year approaches.
Indications are the Tennessee Titans will part with the back, who has been productive and durable but has not produced the effort or yards commensurate with the giant salaries he’s been collecting. He is due an $8 million base salary in 2014.
When he was the feature back of the Oilers and Titans, Eddie George wasn’t a breakaway guy, but the odds of him earning a tough yard were good, and his desire was unquestionable.
I spoke to George this week about his own story.
We also had a chance to chat about Johnson.
“I had a chance to talk to CJ right before Christmas, and he was at the same point that I was at in my career in terms of the dollar amount and where he is. Personally, I think he’s still an effective running back, I think he’s one of the best backs in this league, maybe not the best. But certainly if you give him the right opportunities, he can do great things. Does he deserve $8 million? I can’t say. I’m always going to tell a player, ‘Go get your money. Do what you have to do.’
“But from an organizational standpoint I can see where they have to go, because this league is no longer about a running back. It’s a quarterback-centric league. The teams that are winning, they have an effective quarterback they can build around, and a running game that’s sufficient enough. I look at CJ, the games that he did have 100 yards, how many wins can you account for with those? (Johnson had two, the Titans won both.) Is he truly impacting these games? From an organizational standpoint, is it worth $8 million a year? Probably not.
“But is he still able to play this game at a high level? I believe so. So maybe there’s a middle ground where they can meet on both sides. I think Tennessee is better with CJ. I think CJ is better with Tennessee. That’s just my personal opinion, and CJ has to make that decision from a business perspective he feels comfortable with.”
Johnson is on the record saying he won’t accept a pay cut.
George was a super-accountable player. Johnson has spoken far more in recent years about blocking problems and about the way coaches have used him than he has about his own deficiencies or shortcomings. In fact, I’m not certain beyond talking about a fumble that he has ever said “My bad.”
“I was one to look at myself and say 'what can I do better, can I be a better teammate, can I be a better leader, can I be a better running back, what do I have to work on?'" George said. “But I do understand his frustrations. There were times he was taken out of games when he would be in it -- in the goal-line situations. Those are the type of things that happened with me toward the end of my career. And I know I am not crazy, but it is what it is. That’s a part of the deal.
“I think he needs to be held more accountable, but I can understand his frustrations, because he wasn’t able to do the things he wanted to do because of the lack of opportunities he was accustomed to getting. He’s never missed a game, which is remarkable for a guy his size.”