Last season, when former Vikings' quarterback Daunte Culpepper struggled to do anything right on the field, fans called for Brad Johnson. Some members of the local media, either attempting to establish their credibility in certain circles or simply trying to garner some attention, immediately seized on the race card. Without so much as a hint that anyone calling for the quarterback change last season cared a whit about the race of the Vikings' quarterback, these media pundits jumped on the race bandwagon excortiating those who "want Daunte out because he's black." No evidence was offered to support these claims of racism despite the fact that ample statistical evidence supported Culpepper's benching for his horrendous on-field performance.
Today, the Vikings' rumor mill is already churning with fans rightfully critical of quarterback Brad Johnson's recent play. The irony is that, rather than calling for the insertion at quarterback of the experienced Brooks Bollinger--a quarterback who has had some success in the NFL--more fans, and even some local pundits, are calling for Tarvaris Jackson to be the Vikings' starting quarterback.
Nobody is suggesting, however, that these cries for Jackson's insertion or Johnson's removal are race-based. They might be in some circles. But the numbers, just as with Culpepper's numbers last season, make clear why there is so much angst over Johnson. I'll leave to others the discussion of why anyone would prefer Jackson over Bollinger at this point in the 2006 season.
Like Culpepper last year, Johnson has become a liability at quarterback. And there is little evidence to suggest that Johnson's performance is a short-term bit and much to suggest otherwise.
Against New England on Monday, Johnson was brutal. After the Vikings' promising opening drive fizzled with a mind-numbing Johnson interception at the Patriots' goal line, things went south in a hurry. From that point on, Johnson seemingly could do nothing right. After the game, head coach Brad Childress and Johnson coyly attempted to spread the blame by implying culpability on the part of the offensive line and the receivers. But the truth of the matter is that Johnson simply stunk, twice throwing picks despite the utter lack of defensive pressure and a clear view of the defender who would make the pick.
The bigger picture regarding Johnson's play is even more troubling, however, than was the performance on Monday night. On Monday, Johnson threw two interceptions that mattered and another that was meaningless. As bad as the interceptions were, though, Johnson looked even worse throwing passes deeper than twenty yards--with the exception of the pass that bounced off of no-hands Williamson's chest. Johnson routinely threw ephis pitches to suprised Patriot defenders, who could have and should have had another three or four picks in the game, and had so little zip on most of his deep passes that they would have blown back into his hands owing to the collective gasp of fans at his back but for the concurrent collective gasp of horror of fans to his fore.
But Monday was just one of many bad performances for Johnson in 2006. With the exception of last week's modest performance against the defenseless Seahawks, Johnson has done next to nothing after the opening drive of any game, save for an occasional burst in hurry up mode with the Vikings trailing against Detroit and Buffalo.
The Vikings can continue to contend that Johnson's poor performances are coming against good defenses, but, at some point, the ostrich has to pull its head out of the sand and accept its lot. It is becoming painfully obvious that Johnson's better days are behind him. And if his better days were caretaker days, that, along with his recent play, suggests what lies ahead.
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