When you were a little kid, did you ever have a toy that you liked, but you just didn't like it as much as another toy? Or did you have a friend that you talked to once in awhile, only you found yourself always looking for a reason to not hang out with them? Seems we've all had instances where some idea/object seemed like a good idea, a good fit, but it was never quite good enough to crack our rotation. Well, for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that item happens to be Josh Johnson.
The quick background on Johnson (or J.J. as we call him) is this. A 5th round pick out of the University of San Diego, he was nabbed as a project quarterback by none other than the supposed quarterback guru himself, Jon Gruden. It was made evident to anyone and everyone that JJ was not the QB now (this back in 2008) but was a future guy. Gruden saw an accurate passer who had enough mobility to cause some issues for NFL defenses. I imagine Gruden salivated at going from 2008 Jeff Garcia, who was about 73 years old that year, to a younger, bigger-armed version of Garcia in 20-something JJ. Johnson didn't touch the field in 2008 which was what we expected. We heard about him through practices and camps and were led to believe that he would one day be our starter.
But an unforeseen detour happened at the end of the 2008 season. Gruden was given the pink slip, Raheem Morris was hired, Mark Dominik promoted, and by the time the 2009 draft rolled around, Josh Freeman was king of the land, JJ was relegated to the bench and the once bright star of Johnson had substantially faded. Then Leftwich was brought in and though JJ was still second string due to the "sit and develop" mindset with Freeman, it was clear the reins would be handed to Freeman when he was ready, not JJ.
As the Bucs ambled out of the gates and Leftwich was being beaten to a bloody stump of a quarterback, the cries for Johnson, or really, anyone other than Leftwich were heard. Johnson got into his first NFL game in a shut out against the Giants, and though he didn't engineer any points, he did move the ball well. But he was two weeks away from sealing his fate.
Sitting on a winless team, JJ was set to make his first home start against the Eagles at home. If you don't know, the Eagles have always been blitz happy. Well, with a young, inexperienced QB making his first start with no real playmakers around him, the Eagles dialed up an insane number of blitzes. Poor JJ was left throwing off his back foot all game as time and time again, green jerseys came crashing down on him. With no help from anyone else, JJ ran around in the backfield, got creamed and sealed his fate. An unfortunate turn, but one that couldn't be avoided given the Bucs didn't want to throw supposed franchise saver Freeman in the same situation.
A few games later, after a lackluster team performance, Freeman was brought in, and the rest is history. Johnson certainly didn't perform well on the field, but was not much worse than the other two starters that took the field, and one could argue that he, JJ, faced the tougher defenses.
But it is more of what happened off the field that seems to have stamped Johnson's ticket out of Tampa Bay. After being alluded to as a career backup by head coach Raheem Morris in 2009, which whether you take it as good or bad, still leaves the fact that Johnson will not get a chance to shine in Tampa Bay. Then, just a few days ago, OC Greg Olsen came out and talked about Johnson, even going so far to compare him to Snead and Carpenter saying they were all on a level playing field and development wise, none of the three were ahead of the other.
Well, I get the insinuation, but Johnson has two full years in the league and a fwe games under his belt. You can talk to 100 Bucs fans and ask about Morris' quote and Olsen's and probably come back with a 50/50 split on whether it's coach talk, a cheap shot at JJ, or another form of negative reinforcement to the 2008 draft pick. The point being, Johnson clearly has little to no value for our team. He has been relegated to the bench and doesn't appear to be any further along than his rookie counterpart. At this point it may be best for the team to trade away JJ for a new clipboard or whatever else they can get for him.
I like JJ and think he has some of the tools to be successful. He's been lauded by anyone who has ever coached him as a smart player with a knack for hard work and studious habits. He has the physical skills necessary, but we have yet to see him unleash those in live action, though I'd argue the supporting cast has a lot to do with that. But with the die being cast on his future, there are several teams who last year made inquiries about JJ. Maybe it's time to pick up the phone and return those calls. With no clear cut advantage comign in as a number two quarterback, and a propensity for taking it on the chin from his coaches in the media, it seems we have reached a point where both parties may be best served to shake hands and part.