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Just when you thought the 49ers’ quarterback depth had been stretched to its limits, disaster struck again.
Rookie Brock Purdy was removed from Sunday’s NFC championship game against the Eagles during San Francisco’s opening drive after he was hit in the arm by linebacker Hassan Reddick. His replacement? Fourth-string veteran quarterback Josh Johnson.
Johnson’s name is likely a familiar one for anybody who’s followed the NFL over the past decade. A fifth-round pick in 2008 by the Buccaneers out of the University of San Diego, he’s appeared in games for seven different franchises since then. But that doesn’t begin to describe the football odyssey the 36-year-old has been on over the past decade and a half.
Here are a few fun facts about San Francisco’s newest signal-caller.
1. Johnson presumably knows a lot of fight songs
Not only has Johnson been on many different NFL teams—he’s also played in different leagues. In addition to the NFL, Johnson has played in the UFL in 2012 (for the Sacramento Mountain Lions) and in the XFL in ’20 (for the Los Angeles Wildcats). He was also the first overall pick in the 2019 quarterback draft for the AAF by the San Diego Fleet, but he never played in that league because he signed with Washington in a return to the NFL.
2. This isn’t Johnson’s first rodeo with the 49ers
The 2022 season marks Johnson’s fourth stint with San Francisco, although it’s his first time ever appearing in a game. Johnson was on the team’s practice squad in ’12, ’14, ’20 and ’21. He played in two games during the 2022 regular season, with two pass attempts and one completion.
3. He’s cousins with another Bay Area football legend
Johnson is a cousin of former NFL running back Marshawn Lynch, who—before becoming a 49ers rival as a star with the Seahawks—was a standout at Cal. The pair grew up in Oakland and attended high school at Oakland Tech.
4. Johnson has been on a lot of NFL teams
In total, Johsnon has been employed by—via active roster or practice squads—14 different NFL franchises: the Bucs, 49ers, Browns, Bengals, Jets, Colts, Bills, Ravens, Giants, Texans, Raiders, Washington, Lions and Broncos. He’s had multiple stints with several of those teams, though he’s only appeared in 39 career regular-season games with nine starts.
5. Johnson’s appearance on Sunday made NFL history
With his first pass attempt against the Eagles, Johnson is just the third quarterback in league history to make his first postseason pass at age 36 or older, joining Sonny Jurgensen and Josh McCown.
6. Johnson once had to introduce himself to teammates during an actual NFL game
Let’s turn it over to former Browns offensive lineman and teammate of Johnson’s, Joe Thomas, for this one:
7. Johnson played for another former 49ers great: Jim Harbaugh
Harbaugh’s first college head coaching job came at USD, where Johnson starred. He and Harbaugh arrived on campus together in 2004, with Johnson taking over the starting job in ’05. He was a three-time Division I-AA All-America selection, while Harbaugh eventually left to take the job at Stanford after the ’06 season.
8. This is actually the end of the QB line for the 49ers
Should Johnson somehow be unable to finish Sunday’s game, things would really get dicey for San Francisco’s offense. There are no other active quarterbacks on the roster, which would leave fullback Kyle Juszczyk as the team’s emergency quarterback. Now that would put Kyle Shanahan’s “quarterback whisperer” moniker to the test.