DENVER - AUGUST 16: Quarterback Brad Johnson #14 of the Dallas Cowboys leaves the field against the Denver Broncos during preseason NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on August 16, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Cowboys 23-13. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Brad "Ol' Sweatpants" Johnson; where, oh where, have you gone?
Well, short answer, he was let go by the Cowboys after last season at the tender age of 104 (this is an estimate). Johnson played in three games in the absence of Tony Romo in 2008, who missed time with a fractured pinky, posting 427 yards passing, two touchdowns and five interceptions for a career-low passer rating of 50.2.
In his final appearance, against the New York Giants, Johnson was replaced by the future UFL MVP Brooks Bollinger, who didn't fare much better. It was an ugly, ugly, three weeks for Cowboys fans.
The reason, in all likelihood, that Johnson was kept around at all after the near month-long debacle was his role as holder.
Say what you will about his quarterbacking in 2008--"it sucked," for example--the guy was adroit at grabbing the snap and getting the laces out and whatever else being a good holder entails. This position is usually an afterthought in the NFL, but has been forced by necessity to the front-end of many state-of-the-Cowboys discussions of late, with Nick Folk struggling uncharacteristically.
Mat McBriar, Cowboys' punter and good friend of Folk's, was groomed as the holder this off season, an experiment that's been a bit rocky through thirteen weeks. McBriar himself has vocally taken responsibility for at least two of Folk's eight misses this season and is pretty clearly uncomfortable in this role.
So what's to be done?
Dallas has already experimented with Tony Romo returning to the role in practice this week, a scenario ripe for mockery and instances of deja vu.
The answer is wholly unclear. But the question is a pressing one at this point; pressing enough, indeed, for us to lament the absence of Brad Johnson. That's never a good sign.