Week 15 Crystal Ball - Thursday
Niners-Seahawks Meet in Pivotal Matchup
My friends, THE GURU is ready for San Francisco-Seattle and the matchup is just like we scripted it with Brock Purdy and Geno Smith starting at quarterback for their respective teams.
Actually, we may not see Purdy at 8:15 pm on Amazon Prime when the NFC West rivals square off as the rookie is nursing injuries to his obliques and ribs. I can relate as I’m battling through similar pain though my ordeal is due to binge-eating at last weekend’s Army-Navy tailgate. I feel your pain, Brock.
As the battle rages inside your author’s corpulent physique, the Niners are faced with the prospect of starting their fourth QB of the season and that, folks, brings me to the man waiting in the wings, a guy who’s had one heck of an interesting career.
Joshua Javon Johnson entered the NFL in 2008 as a fifth-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a stellar career at the University of San Diego, a Division I FCS school under Jim Harbaugh. Yes, that Jim Harbaugh, a first-time head coach who would refer to Johnson as “a beloved son.” The duo won a lot of games at USD and, when Harbaugh departed for Stanford before his QB’s senior year, Johnson continued his lights-out play, throwing for 43 touchdowns and just one INT.
When Johnson arrived in Florida a year later, Jon Gruden was entering his final season as head coach and the staff included a bunch of notable assistants, including Jon’s brother, Jay, and a wunderkind named Sean McVay. Jeff Garcia (11 starts) and Brian Griese (5) shared quarterbacking duties for the team, which started hot at 9-3 before losing its final four games to finish shy of the playoffs. Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen were summarily dismissed.
Johnson earned four starts the next season, going 0-4, and stayed with Tampa through the 2011 season. And that’s when he really turned into a traveling man.
In 2012, he was with three organizations — the 49ers, the United Football League’s Sacramento Mountain Lions and the Cleveland Browns. Then, there was relative calm, spending time with the Bengals (2013) and reuniting with Harbaugh in San Francisco (2014). Then there was a whirlwind called 2015.
Indeed, in that calendar year, he spent time with four AFC teams - the Bengals (again), Jets, Colts, and Bills - and followed that up by playing for the Ravens and Giants the next year. Next, it was 2017 in Houston with the Texans before enjoying his greatest pro success in 2018.
He started that year in Oakland before being drafted first overall by the San Diego Fleet of the Alliance of American Football. But, before he could suit up for that team, he was summoned to DC where he joined Washington franchise in the thick of the playoff race.
Improbably, Johnson was forced into action due to injuries to Alex Smith, Colt McCoy and Mark Sanchez and he delivered as he started an NFL game for the first time in seven years. Yup, after learning his teammates’ names by playing “Madden,” Johnson beat the Jaguars in a critical late-season matchup for his first - and only - victory of his NFL career. Then, he nearly led the team to an upset of Tennessee the following weekend.
From there, it was back on the road with stops in Dee-troit (2019), another tour in San Fran (2020-21), the Jets (2021), Ravens (2021), and Denver (2022). And, oh yeah, for good measure, he spent part of the 2020 campaign with the Los Angeles Wildcats of Vince McMahon’s XFL.
If you’re counting - and I acknowledge that it’s difficult - Johnson has been with 17 organizations in 15 years in four different leagues. There have been two stints each with Baltimore, Cincinnati and the Jets. He’s had two sets of brothers as head coaches - the Harbaughs and the Grudens. And, now, the 36-year-old Johnson finds himself back in the Bay, his fourth tour of duty for the Niners.
Wouldn’t it be nice to see him get an opportunity and play big this evening?
These two teams have been slugging it out against one another since September 1976 - a 37-21 San Francisco win - and there’s no reason to think tonight won’t be a football slugfest.
I see tonight as a toss-up but, given the Niners continued good play in the face of adversity, I’ll go with the visitors. Call is 22-20, San Fran.
That’s all for tonight, folks, but I’ll be in touch before Saturday’s three games. Yes sir - Saturday! Enjoy and God bless!