Bills receiver Stevie Johnson has stated time and again that he wants to be back with the club that made him a seventh-round pick come the 2012 season. Since the season came to a close Sunday Buffalo's quarterback and head coach weighed in with varying degrees of support for that to happen.
Johnson was not available for comment during the locker clean out period when the media can conduct interviews, but Ryan Fitzpatrick made it clear where he stands on Stevie Johnson and his future.
"Me and him I feel like a lot of what I've done and a lot of the success I've had since I've been here has been because of him," said Fitzpatrick. "And the success that he's had a lot of it has been because of me. We have that relationship. I don't know what's going to happen and obviously I'm not a decision maker and I'm not going to be involved in that process. I know they know I want him back. He knows I want him back."
When one looks at the numbers it's easy to understand Fitzpatrick's position. Over the past two seasons 25 percent of his completions have gone to Johnson. Almost 30 percent of his passing yards the past two years have been accumulated by Johnson. And more than a third of the team's passing touchdowns the last two seasons have been made by Fitzpatrick and Johnson (36%).
The figures are a clear indicator of Johnson's importance to Buffalo's passing game on an offense that head coach Chan Gailey has stated in the past is a 'pass to set up the run' attack. As for Gailey's desire to have Johnson back in the fold for 2012 and beyond, it's clear that the receiver's repeated run-ins with penalty flags due to touchdown displays have given Buffalo's sideline boss pause.
In fact a pause is exactly what Gailey took before answering the question of whether he wants Johnson back on his team.
"Yes… and with stipulations," he said. "You love what Stevie does on the field before he scores touchdowns. So you just have to decide if he can and we can get that under control."
In the same breath Gailey made sure to say that Johnson's most recent actions will not overshadow the team's review of all that the talented receiver has done in his time with the Bills.
"To say it doesn't have an impact would be a lie, but you have to look at the whole body of work and not give a knee-jerk reaction to something that happened," said Gailey. "At the same time it's not the first time. So you take the whole body of work into consideration when you're making decisions like that for your football team. Every evaluation is heavy when you are talking about things like this."
After Sunday's season finale Johnson indicated he had no way of predicting what would happen regarding his contract situation and the Bills.
"I don't know. That's not in my hands really," he said. "It's all on upstairs to see what they want to do and we'll go from there. As of now I'm a Buffalo Bill."
Gailey reiterated after Sunday's game that Johnson is a good person that just has bad judgment at times. Fitzpatrick concurred describing the receiver as a dedicated teammate.
"Steve is always a guy that he's got a good heart and he really does mean well. Everything comes from a good place with him," Fitzpatrick said. "He's not a difficult guy by any means to get along with. During the week, during the offseason, during a game he really is a good teammate. It's been unfortunate all the negative attention that he's had from the Jets game and from this last game. And he's brought it upon himself. All that attention comes from him bringing it to himself."
Johnson had a one-on-one exit interview with Gailey, which is conducted with each player on the roster at season's end and the head coach shared a bit of what was discussed.
"I told him exactly we have to get things under control," he said. "That's going to be important going forward. Whether he's here or not, he needs to get that under control."
Fitzpatrick has his fingers crossed that it's here.
"He wants to be here, but we'll see how it turns out," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm a better player with Stevie on my team. I think he's a better player with me as his quarterback."