Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Brad Johnson is the king of week 1

After Sunday I was ready to wax on about the surgically-repaired Donovan McNabb's instant rapport with a receiving corps the Eagles assembled barely a week ago or, if not that, the vicious manner in which the Raven defense went into the New Sombrero and added their initials to the list of men's names tattooed on Chris Simms's body. But then Monday night came and the oldest offensive player in the NFL won me over with his poise, his mastery of fundamentals and his vastly under-rated physical talent.

Brad Johnson is the owner of a top twenty all-time QB rating, the third best won-loss record among active quarterbacks and a Super Bowl ring, yet, througout his long career, he has never been thought of as much more than a stop-gap solution. Last night, at age 37, Johnson put on a clinic in the Vikings 19-16 win in Washington.

Earlier in is his career the legitimate knock on Johnson was he could be rattled by pressure. Not so any more. Facing an aggressive, highly rated defense and one of the loudest crowds in the NFL, Johnson didn't come close to making a mistake and completed every kind of pass; short, long and in-between

Johnson's best moment came when he fended off a Redskin linebacker and then tossed a perfect pass to his tight end Jerome Wiggins -- with his left hand.

Fittingly, Wiggins muffed the pass. The underwhelming Viking receivers dropped about 100 yards and a touchdown worth of excellent throws, which is why Johnson's still-decent 16-30-223-1-0 final line is a poor representation of how good he actually was.

It wasn't just dropped passes. The Vikings also missed an extra point and committed inopportune penalty after inopportune penalty in a first half they ended up trailing, despite out-playing their favored opponent. But Johnson remained stoic in the face of his teammates' errors and when he got his opportunities in the second half he struck with precision.

In the fourth quarter it was the Redskins -- mainly criminal safety Sean Taylor -- who self-destructed with bad penalties.

On the Vikings' game winning drive Johnson barely had to pass. Having already seen him carve up their secondary the Redskins had to drop an extra guy back, and the Vikings were able to use their ground game to run out most of the clock as they took the lead.

Back in 2001 Redskin's owner Dan Snyder dumped Johnson for the strong-armed enigma Jeff George. George promptly bombed for the 'Skins and Johnson led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl victory. With Snyder showing off his latest enigmatic acquisition, Tom Cruise, in the owner's box, it would be tempting to mock Snyder for underestimating Johnson and going with the headline grabbing George.

But, throughout Johnson's career, even during his Florida State days when he wasn't a full-time starter, everyone has underestimated Johnson.

Brad Johnson turns 38 tomorrow. If he keeps up his good play this feels like the year he gets the credit he deserves.

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