In a move that puts to shame all the Olympic references to athletes chasing their dreams, America's Spare Quarterback Josh Johnson just signed a contract to be cut at some future date by the New York Jets. The Jets are Johnson’s 20th chased dream in 12 years, and while the circumstances almost never seem to get any more rewarding for him, he keeps chasing that squirrel. And now that it's 20 squirrels, he deserves some kind of bust in Canton. Maybe next to Brady's.
His Wikipedia page is as crowded as his Football Reference page is sparse, but the details are what get you. In going from Tampa Bay to San Francisco to Chicago to the Sacramento Mountain Lions to Cleveland to Cincinnati to San Francisco to Cincinnati to the Jets to Indianapolis to Buffalo to Baltimore to the Giants to Houston to Oakland to the San Diego Fleet to Washington to Detroit to the Los Angeles Wildcats to San Francisco and now to back to the Jets, he has chased the living crap out of his dream, to the point where there really is only the chase left. A man has to follow his heart, of course, but Johnson's heart is being played by Karsten Warholm, and he is being played by Rai Benjamin.
Johnson, who is a cousin of Marshawn Lynch and therefore need not be sassed for continuing to do what he believes to be his duty, has had the rich honor of being rated by Pro Football Focus as the highest rated quarterback in the second XFL a month before the league folded, which is almost as much the story of his career as his 2015 season in which he:
- Signed with Cincinnati in April and was cut 114 days later.
- Signed with the Jets two days after being cut by the Bengals and was released nine days after that.
- Signed with the Colts and lasted three days, was re-signed two days later and cut again five days after that.
- Signed the next day by Buffalo and then disappeared from the transactions trail before landing in Baltimore the following year.
He has been coached, or at least watched, by both Harbaughs, both Grudens, Raheem Morris, Lovie Smith, Pat Shurmur, Marvin Lewis, Todd Bowles, Chuck Pagano, Rex Ryan, Ben McAdoo, Bill O'Brien, Matt Patricia, Winston Moss, Turk Schonert, Mike Martz, Kyle Shanahan and now Robert Saleh. Mostly, though, he knows assistant general managers, travel coordinators and equipment guys.
So why does he do it? Love of the game? Probably. The thrill of the dream? Oh sure. But there's also this: The job or lack thereof pays decently. According to Over The Cap, Johnson has pulled in $7,188,057 for just his NFL work (we can only guess as to what he made in the UFL, AAF, or XFL, if in fact he was paid in American money, or at all). And no, we won't be working out how many dollars per throw that is—Johnson probably feels marginalized enough as it is.
Romantics might want the Jets’ Zach Wilson, Mike White, and James Morgan to all miss enough time for Johnson to get a game in before his next gig (he's only 35, after all), but he knows it's not going to work that way. He is now a cruel yet noble novelty, a Bizarro World version of baseball's Edwin Jackson (14 teams in 17 years), who, despite being 37 and despite having made $97 million as a big-leaguer, is trying to win a medal with the U.S. Olympic baseball team. In sum, some folks get to chase one dream forever, and some get to catch a bunch of different dreams over and over again.