Monday, September 28, 2009

Josh Johnson Is Your New Starting Quarterback

The Bucs pulled the trigger today and replaced starting quarterback Byron Leftwich with second year pro Josh Johnson. Although Leftwich put up decent numbers in the first two games I don't think this move is that much of a surprise to anybody who was paying attention. If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time you know that I questioned the Bucs naming Leftwich the starter over Luke McCown in the first place. The same factor that I pointed to then is the same reason the Bucs are pointing to now in making the change, Leftwich's lack of mobility. The NFL just isn't a league where you can have a statue at quarterback anymore. By making this move this early in the season its almost a tacit acknowledgement that they picked the wrong guy.

But here is the deal, by giving Josh Johnson the opportunity to start the Bucs might end up putting themselves in a very tough position.

See I am a fan of Johnson's. I am not ready to annoint the kid a Pro Bowler or anything, but I do think he is extremely talented and had he gone to a bigger school would have been an early round selection. His stats in college were absolutely gaudy, 113 touchdown passes and over 11,500 yards of total offense for his career. He has a big time arm as he showed yesterday and he can make all the throws. But on top of that this guy is fast and lightning quick. The Bucs have a pretty good offensive line as it is, but if the pocket breaks down he can make big things happen with his feet. And maybe best of all, he makes quick decisions with the ball in his hands.

So after saying all these nice things about Johnson you might be wondering what's the problem, well the Bucs almost need for Johnson to only be average at best. The reason for that is because the Bucs drafted they guy who they describe as their quarterback of the future, Josh Freeman, in the first round this year. It will be mighty inconvenient for them should Johnson get in there and set the world on fire. And honestly I am not so sure he won't.

You see we have a lot of talent on offense whether people realize it or not. Aside from Sean Mahan our offensive line is outstanding and so are our running backs. Also Antonio Bryant, our best and most explosive receiver, is finally getting back healthy after a knee injury in the preseason. He along with Michael Clayton give us a very athletic tandem and if yesterday is any indication Johnson already has a pretty good rapport with one of the back up wide receivers, Sammie Stroughter. And you can't forget about our tight ends, especially now that Kellen Winslow Jr seems to be getting open with a lot more frequency.

Josh Johnson has been named quarterback at a time when he will have a lot of talent around him and when we have the inept Redskins up next on the schedule. If Johnson can have a good game and lead us to a victory or at least keep it close then he has a good shot at keeping the starting job at least until the off week. That means he will have the opportunity to play against the Eagles, the Panthers, and the Patriots.

Now just imagine for a moment that Johnson plays well over the next four games. How hard will it be for the Bucs to justify pulling him if he is putting us in a position to win? As a second year player he could be really good for a really long time, but what happens with the first round pick? Will the Bucs really be able to resist calls to put Freeman in considering the amount of money they invested in him this year? We already know that Head Coach Raheem Morris keeps referring to Johnson as his long term backup quarterback ala "Jason Garrett", but what if Johnson himself has other ideas?

The problem of course is that if Johnson is playing well and gets yanked in favor of Freeman who then goes out and stinks up the joint then it will be seen, probably rightly so, as the coaching staff and ownership giving up on this season. How many people are going to line up to pay good money to come out and see a team that has no chance to win? How many people are going to support a team that is $30 million under the salary cap but won't invest in any new talent? If Josh Johnson plays the way I think he is capable of playing he could affect a lot about what the Bucs are going to do for the future.

Now this will all be a moot point if Johnson ends up laying an egg, but I just have a feeling in my gut that he won't. This kids seems to exude that "it" factor that nobody can quantify but you know it when you see it. I don't know if his play will translate in to wins for us, he can't play defense too after all, but I do think you are going to see a different kind of swagger from out offense with him in the game. I for one am excited after being pretty negative after the game yesterday. I didn't really think there would be much of a reason to be hopeful for this season after that debacle yesterday but now I am willing to keep an open mind and give the Bucs the benefit of the doubt. I don't know how far Johnson can lead us but I am willing to tune in to find out. My advice to you would be to find a way to get over the first three games and do the same.

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