Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup quarterback Josh Johnson has ties to new San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh

TAMPA — Josh Johnson says he grew up a fan of the 49ers and still spends offseasons near his home in the San Francisco Bay area.

So ever since the 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh, Johnson says he can't go anywhere without somebody mentioning the possibility of him being reunited with his former University of San Diego coach.

The 49ers have an unsettled quarterback situation, and it's not a stretch to think Harbaugh might want to trade for the Bucs backup.

After all, Johnson will become a free agent next season, and the longer the NFL lockout endures, the more Harbaugh could use a quarterback with a working knowledge of his offense.

"I hear it all the time," Johnson said. "But a lot more goes into this than what you think. I understand that. It's why I try to stay in the middle. If I can't control the situation, I don't make any predictions on it.

"If something happens, I'm all for it. But at the same time, I enjoy playing for Raheem (Morris) and the Bucs. It's hard for any competitor to not be able to get out there, especially for me because I've gotten a taste of being a starter."

Johnson, 24, is entrenched behind Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman, who established himself by going 10-6 last season, passing for 25 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Two years ago, general manager Mark Dominik said he hoped to develop a situation in Tampa Bay at the QB position similar to what the Packers experienced many years ago with Brett Favre, developing young backups that other teams value as starters, such as Mark Brunell, Matt Hassel­beck and Kurt Warner.

Johnson was a fifth-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2008. The Bucs believe he will be a starter one day, and it seems unlikely they would stand in the way of that opportunity if they received the right compensation, most likely a middle-round pick.

The problem for Johnson — and Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb or the Redskins' Donovan McNabb — is there can be no transactions during the lockout.

Johnson has learned to be patient. He starred at Oakland Tech High but wasn't heavily recruited. He turned down a college scholarship at St. Mary's after meeting Harbaugh, who had just taken over San Diego, a Division I-AA school that offered only financial aid. He passed for 9,312 yards and 108 touchdowns for the Toreros. A mixed performance at the NFL combine may have forced him to go lower in the draft than expected. Two years ago, he was the No. 4 QB in camp but was called on to start four games before Freeman took control.

"Him and I started our journey together," Johnson said of Harbaugh. "It was his first coaching job; it was my first opportunity. … I can talk football until both of my eyes are red and I'm passing out. He can, too. Whether I play for him again, we'll always have a relationship."

During the lockout, Johnson has been working with his longtime personal quarterback coach, Roger Theder, and has done more charitable work in Oakland.

Meanwhile, Harbaugh can only speculate about how 49ers quarterbacks Alex Smith or Troy Smith might fit his offense. Coincidentally, several years ago in a profile on Johnson by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Harbaugh was asked about eventual Heisman winner Troy Smith of Ohio State.

"I've seen Troy Smith play," Harbaugh said. "Our guy's better."

Maybe one day Johnson will get a chance to prove that.

"Even though Coach Harbaugh was my coach in college, it's the same thing with any team, there's still a business side to this whole thing, and I understand that," Johnson said.

"If I've got to go back to being the backup, that's my role with the team. We had two opportunities to make the playoffs in my three years there and we missed out in the last week. That's still burning up inside me. And as a competitor, I'm 0-4 as a starter, and that's on my track record and it burns me up to this day. I feel like the next opportunity I get, it's going to be a lot better. But that's easier said than done."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup quarterback Josh Johnson has ties to new San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh 04/09/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 9, 2011 8:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Cup-winning Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said Dave Andreychuk's name has surfaced often the past eight years with the selection committee.

    30 Oct 2001:  Left wing Dave Andreychuk #25 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates towards the blue line during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Lightning 3-2.  Mandatory Credit:  Dave Sanford /Allsport
  2. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  3. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: Alex Cobb (6-5, 4.05)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108
  5. What they're saying about Dave Andreychuk making Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    "Dave helped me so much when I was just starting my career, a young kid that was looking to find his way as a hockey player, a person and a member of the Tampa Bay community. In addition to watching him compile such awe-inspiring statistics, I remember him as a big brother to me and many others, making sure all the …