If Lions are serious about change, Johnson played last game at Ford Field

Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown with Michael Ola #74 of the Detroit Lions while playing the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field on December 27, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan.
Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown with Michael Ola #74 of the Detroit Lions while playing the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field on December 27, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Getty Images)

DETROIT – If Lions fans are serious about this franchise changing for the better, they have to hope Sunday was Calvin Johnson's last game at Ford Field in a Lions uniform.

It sounds harsh, almost cruel.

After all, Johnson, an All-Pro receiver, has been the Lions' best player for nearly a decade. He has thrilled fans with his catches and touchdowns. Often, his play was the lone bright spot on a given Sunday afternoon for a sad sack organization that has lost a lot more than it has won.

Still, the time has come to stop the status quo and make bold changes. Joe Montana finished his career in Kansas City. Peyton Manning was sent packing from Indianapolis. Heck, Brett Favre was bounced from Green Bay.

Good teams know when to say when to a star player. That time has come in Motown.

In the Lions' 32-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Johnson had six receptions for 77 yards.

It was a good day, not spectacular. That's Johnson these days. Still, fans cheered their heads off for Johnson as if they knew there's a real possibility that he's a goner.

"It wasn't on my mind," Johnson said. "Can't help but think about everybody talking about it, but it wasn't anything I was thinking about going into the game."

Coach Jim Caldwell, whose future is up in the air as well, offered little about Johnson's situation.

"I don't anticipate it's going to be anything other than what it's been," Caldwell said. "That he's here, he's been a great Lion and does a tremendous job. That's what I expect and that's all I'm going to say about that.

"You guys are expecting me to talk into the future, I don't even have my boss yet."

And that new boss is coming, a new general manager after the season. It seems crazy to believe this new hire will keep things the same when he gets here.

If he does, you'd have to wonder why they needed him if everything is already good and in place.

Enter Johnson's case.

Basically, if the Lions are to get better, they probably have to do it without Johnson, the $24-million receiver.

It's not that Johnson can't play or is a bum. But at 30 years old, lowered production and his high price tag simply make Johnson too expensive to keep.

The Lions could use all that cash to pick up two or three players that could help fill other holes the Lions have on their roster.

The Lions - who have now lost nine or more game for the 13th time since 2000 - need more than cosmetic changes.

In the last 16 seasons, the Lions have made the playoffs just twice.  Yes, they are officially the worst NFL franchise since the year 2000. Yes, no team has had less success during this span.

The Lions need an overhaul. Caldwell and his coaches need to go. It's also time to move on from quarterback Matthew Stafford and Johnson, too.

And while management changes are obvious - owner Martha Ford fired president Tom Lewand and GM Martin Mayhew at the halfway point - the next regime has to go further and be willing to change the players that actually play, starting at the top.

For sure, it will be hard to part with Stafford and Johnson. Both have given Lions fans thrills for years. Sadly, most of the moments didn't translate into victories.

All those record-breaking stats seem empty because the duo wasn't able to muster a single playoff win.

Stafford and Johnson were supposed to change things. Plain and simple, neither have.

Let's be honest. The Lions will probably finish in last place with them this season. Next season, they can also finish in last place without them.

The Lions aren't losing because of bad luck or some dumb curse.

It's really simple. Ownership has hired the wrong executives, including Matt Millen arguably the worst GM in the history of pro sports.

The Fords have hired eight coaches since 2000, not one of them has been any good here.

The time has come to cut bait with Johnson. It would be a real signal that the Lions are serious about changing things around here.