Righting the ship
Veteran Johnson has brought calm, wins to Vikings
Given the choppy waters the all but rudderless Vikings have attempted to sail for most of this season, Minnesota should be eternally thankful this week that the steady hand of Brad Johnson is now on the wheel.
In case you missed it, the Vikings improved to 3-0 with Johnson as their starting quarterback, beating Green Bay 20-17 at Lambeau Field on Monday night to reach .500 for the first time all season. For a team that looked devoid of leadership and was left for dead three weeks ago in the wake of a 38-13 dismantling at Carolina -- a game in which Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper was lost for the season -- Minnesota's second-half resurgence is impressive.
Whoever winds up getting the credit for salvaging the Vikings' season, I know this much already: Johnson, never a glamour quarterback, won't receive nearly enough of it. He never has, no matter how much success he has been party to. He's made a fine, 14-year NFL career out of being underestimated and underappreciated.
Why should that change now?
One of the game's true gentlemen and consummate professionals, it's heartening to see Johnson enjoying another victory lap of sorts. I knew his presence in the lineup would serve to calm the calamitous Vikings, but I didn't expect him to necessarily be able to reverse their disappointing results of the first seven games.
But once again, Johnson has delighted in proving a few folks wrong. Just last week in an SI.com story, Johnson was described by the label he has come to loath over the years: "a journeyman quarterback.' And maybe he is, since he's played in Minnesota, Washington, Tampa Bay and is now in this second tour with the Vikings.
But there are journeymen (see Gus Frerotte), and then there are journeymen. Johnson, 37, has played in Pro Bowls with two different teams (Washington and Tampa Bay), led three clubs to the playoffs, and of course owns just as many Super Bowl rings (one) as the more celebrated 36-year-old quarterback he beat Monday night in Green Bay (Brett Favre).
And who knows where Johnson's little late-career renaissance might lead? Minnesota trails first-place Chicago (7-3) by two games with six remaining, and its next three games are all against losing teams: Cleveland, at Detroit, St. Louis. For the Vikings at this point, everything is geared toward the hope that their Week 17 home game against Chicago will decide the NFC North title.
Wouldn't that be a story for Brad Johnson and the team that made news for all the wrong reasons in 2005?