Johnson’s journey led him to the title game

by Gary Shelton on January 30, 2023

in general

Monday, 4 a.m.

If this was Hollywood, he would have walked off in confetti.

If this was a story book, he would have thrown the winning touchdown pass.

If this was fiction, a long-term contract would have awaited him.

Instead, it was just another disappointing chapter in the story of the guy who hangs on better than anyone, Josh Johnson.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo). Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

Johnson, the backup to the backup to the backup to the backup quarterback for the 49ers, found himself in the middle of the action Sunday afternoon. After a career spent swapping one jersey for another one, he was the quarterback of the 49ers in Sunday's NFC title game.

Alas, it didn't end well. Johnson completed only seven passes for 74 yards. He had a key fumble and suffered a concussion. Still, the mere fact he was in the game showed two things: 1) the 49ers showed incredible short-sightedness by entering a title game with Johnson as their backup and 2) Johnson has had an incredible career for someone who hasn't had an incredible career.

What he does is hang around.

What he does is collect jerseys.

What he does is unpack.

You might remember Johnson, who was a fifth-round draft pick of the Bucs in 2009. the same draft when the Bucs married Josh Freeman. His Bucs career came and went with five starts, all losses.

And since then, he has moved. He has been employed (regular season or taxi squad) by 14 teams. But he has just nine starts. He's been a Buc and a Brown and Bengal. He's been a Colt and a Jet and a Lion. He's been a Commodore and a Raven and a Bill. He's been in the XFL and the USFL. He's been a Sacramento Mountain Lion and San Diego Fleet and a Los Angeles Wildcard.

He has outlasted Freeman. He has outlasted Byron Leftwich, who was on his first team with the Bucs.

And that's the thing. The NFL isn't just about millionaires and commercials. It's about finding a place, or looking for another one.

Johnson is 1-8 as a starter. He has a quarterback ranking of 55.8. He's not a star.

But he's here.

And there is something to that.

Previous post:

Next post: