JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- On Sunday, Josh Johnson started his first NFL game since 2011. For the first time in his NFL career, Johnson won a game as a starting quarterback.
His career arc has been anything but normal, but for Johnson, the win in Jacksonville carried more weight than most.
"I know every opportunity I get could be my last one, that’s just the reality of my situation," Johnson said. "I just want to leave it all out on the field. I owe this game that much because I love it that much."
Johnson's situation is unique, and just getting a start in 2018 is a big surprise. It only happened because the Redskins had two quarterbacks break their legs, Alex Smith and Colt McCoy, and Mark Sanchez was wholly ineffective at the helm of Jay Gruden's offense. So Gruden turned to Johnson, somebody the coach knew from his days in Tampa, a decade ago.
"That’s Jay. He’s always been the same. That’s what I love about Jay. He’s been consistent with me since day one when I met him in Tampa," Johnson said. "I respect people who are consistent. He never changes who he is. He respects his position and he does a great job at coaching us."
Gruden turned to Johnson because the coach believed the passer gave the Redskins the best chance to win. Yes, Johnson has played for 12 NFL teams, but there's a reason so many organizations have had interest over the years. He has a big arm and good wheels on top of natural leadership capabilities.
Against the vaunted Jaguars defense, it was almost as important what Johnson didn't do as what he did.
The Redskins didn't turn the ball over once, and largely, that's a credit to Johnson. No interceptions. There was a fumble, but Morgan Moses recovered it.
When the Redskins won games earlier this season, winning the turnover battle was a huge portion of their winning formula. With Johnson in charge, the offense did their part.
He also completed 16 of 25 passes for 151 yards and threw the game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Johnson also made plays with his legs when he needed to, rushing nine times for 49 yards.
A number of Redskins players talked after the game about Johnson's poise, about believing in him at QB even without much evidence to support that belief. Trent Williams said after the game that the team could feel Johnson taking control of the offense during practices leading up to the Jacksonville game.
In a way, much like Gruden trusted Johnson from their time spent together in Tampa many years ago, the team trusted Johnson on Sunday even after only a 16 throws in a Redskins uniform.
It says something about Johnson too, and something about his situation.
For the quarterback, it was about a message. A mindset.
"It was all about resiliency. We had a message in the week. I’m not going to say the words, but it was ‘f’ it. We just said we wanted to have that mentality, and everybody applied that out there. You felt it in the sideline. We were never rattled. It was my job as the quarterback to make sure I keep my cool because the defense feeds off the offense; the offense feeds off the defense, special teams. It was just a great team effort."
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