Keyshawn Johnson once referred to former Jets’ teammate Wayne Chrebet as the team’s mascot, and even suggested that comparing himself to Chrebet was like comparing a star to a flashlight.
But Johnson no longer talks disparagingly of Chrebet. In fact, he thinks the former Jets’ slot receiver, who made the team in 1995 as a free agent from Hofstra, compares favorably with Patriots Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker.
“Chrebet was a borderline Pro Bowl type slot receiver that they weren’t taking in the Pro Bowls in those days,” Johnson said. “Wes Welker is the modern day Wayne Chrebet. Chrebet was [ahead of his] time.”
Johnson said despite his infamous taunts of Chrebet, the two got along.
“I don’t think the media gave him enough credit,” said Johnson, now an ESPN analyst. “They were trying to create a division with us. They were trying to make it a sexy story, as opposed to who [Chrebet] was.”
Johnson was traded to the Buccaneers in exchange for two first-round draft picks before the 2000 season, and suggested in an interview with the Newark Star-Ledger that Chrebet was more like a flashlight compared to Johnson, who equated himself to a star. But Johnson suggested he wasn’t comparing himself directly to Chrebet.
“I was asked ‘How do you compare with Jet receivers?’ and I said, ‘It’s like comparing a flashlight to a star. At some point in time, flashlight batteries burn out. Stars stay in the air and shine forever.”
Johnson went on to win a Super Bowl in Tampa after the 2001 season, but when he faced Chrebet for the first time following the trade, it was the Jets’ diminutive slot receiver who stole the show. While Johnson was held to just one catch, Chrebet caught the game-winning touchdown pass on a halfback option from Curtis Martin with 52 seconds left in a 21-17 win.
Chrebet, who retired because of concussion problems after the 2005 season, finished with 580 catches for 7,365 yards and 41 touchdowns. Johnson, who played for the Jets, Buccaneers, Cowboys and Panthers, finished with 814 catches for 10,571 yards and 64 touchdowns.