Brad Johnson still haunts Redskins

Some mistakes linger, some do not. That three AM sandwich quickly made by filling a slice of bread with a couple tablespoons of cold, very spicy chili? Misery itself when you wake up, with your body screaming for Pepto at five AM but a distant memory by Sunday afternoon. The 1991 Lincoln with the crotchety ignition that demands exactly the right kind of key jiggling and no stereo?

By “Football Frankie” Moriarty

Seeing that silver lemon in the driveway every morning was infuriating. Almost as infuriating as what Daniel Snyder must be enduring these days. Snyder -- the spoiled boy billionaire from the tech boom of the nineties – desperately wants to win; no one disputes that but he wants to do it his way with “sexy picks”.

The main problem is that before you can start singing Sinatra’s song you have to have at least a glimmering of what you’re trying to do. Snyder knows about as much about football as the loud-mouthed, brain-locked callers to your local sports talk show. Fortunately fore you, your local idiots don’t have the bucks to buy your team; sadly for Washington fans Danny Boy did.

To call The Danny Boy's seven seasons as owner of the Washington Redskins problematic is beyond charitable. But this year, even as his team flails at .500, his mistakes haunt like never before.

Up first, former Redskins head coaches Norv Turner and Marty Schottenheimer. Snyder fired Turner 13 games into the 2000 season, Schottenheimer after the 2001 campaign. And on successive Sundays last month, they returned to FedEx Field and beat Snyder's team, Turner as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Schottenheimer of the San Diego Chargers.


But neither Norv nor Marty was Danny's biggest gaffe. As the past five weeks reveal again, Brad Johnson owns that distinction.

Johnson was the Redskins' starting quarterback in 1999 and for much of the 2000 season. He guided Washington to the second round of the 1999 playoffs, the franchise's first postseason appearance in seven years, and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.

But Snyder didn't appreciate Johnson's subtle, cerebral ways. He wanted a live-armed quarterback slinging fastballs downfield. He wanted Jeff George proving yet again the old adage about being careful about that that for which you wish.

Snyder's edict was ruinous. George was awful, and Johnson headed for Tampa Bay, where in 2002 he helped the Buccaneers win a Super Bowl.

This year, at age 37 and after a brief hiatus as a backup, Johnson is reminding us again of Snyder's folly.

In late October, the Minnesota Vikings were 2-5, and quarterback Daunte Culpepper was lost to a knee injury. Worse, the team was a national punchline, ridiculed for good reason following reports of a tawdry evening cruise involving players.

Enter Johnson. He was acquired during the offseason after 2004 backup Gus Frerotte, another ex-Redskin, signed with the Miami Dolphins. He is 5-0 as the Vikings' starter and has them lurking in playoff contention with four games remaining and three at home against very beatable opponents.

"He's throwing it on time and he's throwing it precise," receiver Koren Robinson told reporters after Sunday's victory at Detroit. "He's like Greg Maddux."

Maddux, a Cubs pitcher, lost his heater years ago, if he ever had one. But his control remains virtually unrivaled.

As does Johnson's. He's completing 62.6 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and only two interceptions. Three of his starts were on the road, and three were decided by less than a touchdown - the most impressive a 24-21 victory at the New York Giants, the Giants' only home defeat this season.

Sure, Minnesota's defense has eased Johnson's burden by forcing 16 turnovers and creating short fields. But his calm efficiency has been invaluable, and his 92.6 passer rating ranks among the NFL's best.

Why, Johnson even managed to uncork an 80-yard scoring pass to Robinson on Sunday against the Lions, prompting coach Mike Tice to joke, "He's having double hernia surgery tomorrow."

Quarterback hasn't been an issue for Snyder's Redskins this season since Mark Brunell replaced Patrick Ramsey in Week 3. But Washington's previous shortcomings at the sport's premier position have been legion. In fact, Johnson's 90.0 passer rating in 1999 remains the franchise's best of the last 14 years.

Oh, but what might have been?

Nachos instead of the burrito, a Lamborghini rather than the Lincoln and Brad Johnson instead of Jeff George.