Former NFL receiver and current ESPN pundit Keyshawn Johnson, as he’s prone to do, is going on the warpath. In fact, the three-time Pro Bowler broke out the tank and grenades for this one.
Keyshawn Johnson ripped Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo on ‘First Take’
For all intents and purposes, First Take now belongs to Stephen A. Smith and the NFL. The controversial hot-take artist will spend the next few months sparring with Johnson, Dallas Cowboys legend Michael Irvin, and quarterback/tight end/minor league outfielder Tim Tebow, among others, on ESPN’s flagship show.
During a recent segment, Johnson and Smith discussed if quarterbacks or wide receivers were bigger divas. Considering the reactions he received after writing a tell-all book after his rookie season with the New York Jets, it’s safe to say this is an area the Super Bowl champion knows all too well.
Johnson made it clear he considers quarterbacks the superior divas because they can get away with far more. He referenced Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre’s separate “will he or won’t he play” scenarios and how both returned to the league without any issue or criticism.
Johnson said if a receiver made the demands that Rodgers did, including those about wanting more control, he’d be “crucified” for such behavior.
“If we came out and we said, ‘We got three lockers; we have our own locker around the corner from the actual locker room,’ we would be crucified. I am a living witness of it. I see what happens on a daily basis with these quarterbacks. … [You] can’t say anything bad to the quarterback. If you scream and yell at him, you’re a problem.”Keyshawn Johnson
Johnson, who retired in 2007, never played with Favre or Rodgers. However, he did play with Romo on the Dallas Cowboys from 2004-05, a time when the young quarterback backed up Drew Bledsoe.
“Tony Romo is one of the most diva-ish dudes that I’ve ever been around at that position,” Johnson said. “And he wasn’t even starting at the time. I think Tony might have even been on the practice squad. Major diva, though.”
Johnson loses points in his argument because he made them on ‘First Take’
The good news for Johnson, if he cares about our opinion, is he’s not entirely wrong. Quarterbacks do get away with far more than players at every other position, in part because they’re the leaders, so to speak, of the team.
There is so much Johnson can do with this argument, especially as a Black man who spent a decade in the NFL. The opportunity exists for him to help change the narrative by asking why he or Randy Moss, two Black receivers, were called “divas” and “distractions,” but white quarterbacks, like Rodgers and Romo, got away with what he perceived were more significant offenses.
However, Johnson’s argument loses credibility in large part because he made it on First Take. Given the platform and context, it’s hard to know how much of what he said is genuine and how much is designed to attract clicks and ratings. This is a show where Max Kellerman once said he’d want Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala to take the final shot instead of Stephen Curry.
It also doesn’t help that Johnson called Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr “elite” and among his top five quarterbacks during the same episode. Rodgers appeared on that list, and deservedly so. No one will argue against Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, or Tom Brady being ranked as “elite,” either.
But why include Carr? The Pro Bowl quarterback is a capable starter who has certainly improved in recent years, but he’s an above-average player at best. When ranking the league’s top 10 quarterbacks, he’s far closer to No. 12 or No. 13 than he is No. 5.
Johnson isn’t the first to argue about Rodgers being a diva
If Johnson wants to feel better about things, he can rest easy knowing he’s not the only notable NFL figure who criticized Rodgers for “diva” behavior this offseason.
Skip Bayless, another master in the art of hot takes, ripped the three-time NFL MVP throughout the summer. Former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf said earlier this year that “we have a lot of divas playing in the league right now.”
Johnson is in excellent company, then. He’s with Bayless, who has a history of controversial comments, and an 82-year-old who hasn’t been an NFL executive since 2000. Perhaps the three of them can spur the change that the former Pro Bowl wideout wants to see in the league.