- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Washington quarterback Brad Johnson plans on making the Redskins wonder why he's not staying when he ends his two-year tenure with the team Sunday.
Johnson is expected to start against the Arizona Cardinals over injured quarterback Jeff George just two weeks after he was benched and nearly released. It's the first meaningless game for Washington (7-8) since the 1995 season-ender, but Johnson wants the final say in his short-run feud with owner Dan Snyder. After all, nothing silences critics better than a good game.
"I hate leaving here," he said. "It's been a great opportunity for me. I'm going to enjoy the last game as much as I can."
Johnson, a childhood Redskins fan whose old bedroom still has a light switch with the team logo, arrived in Feb. 1999 in a controversial trade with the Minnesota Vikings. Then Redskins general manager Charley Casserly defended surrendering first-, second- and third-round picks by saying, "Do you want to win now?"
Johnson delivered the best season by a Redskins quarterback in eight years with a 90.0 rating and a Pro Bowl invitation. Johnson was twice named NFC Offensive Player of the Week and set career marks in completions (316), pass attempts (519), yards (4,005), completion percentage (61) and touchdowns (24).
The Redskins won their first NFC East title since 1991 after a seven-year postseason absence. However, Snyder was never enamored with Johnson, criticizing the trade before his purchase of the team was finalized. Snyder signed George to a four-year, $18.25 million deal April 10 but refused to negotiate with Johnson until after inking first-round picks LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels and running back Stephen Davis. When talks hadn't resumed by September, Johnson knew he was out and publicly ended any chance of returning.
Coach Norv Turner refused to bench Johnson after the 1-2 start, feeling the change would look like Snyder's doing. Johnson missed three games with a sprained knee, and his start ahead of George against the New York Giants on Dec. 3 was one reason Turner was fired the following day.
Interim coach Terry Robiskie benched Johnson as one of his first acts, but Johnson openly blamed the move on Snyder. Team sources said Snyder wanted to release Johnson in retaliation, but Robiskie convinced the owner it would be detrimental.
"I don't think you're ever surprised," Johnson said about his near release. "It probably would have put me somewhere else faster."
The move to George proved divisive in the locker room. George is only 1-4 as a starter and angered some team officials by freelancing too often in the 24-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday before he sprained his back.
"I don't think the shakedown went the way it should have been," Johnson said, "but you deal with it and move on. I like the players on the team. I loved playing for the coaches. It's unfortunate the last five weeks of the season got away from us."
Johnson isn't worried fans will boo him like they did in the Giants loss. He believes a good effort that sends him into free agency is important.
"I feel like in general I have a good relationship with the fans," Johnson said. "If things go well people are cheering for you. You're playing for yourself because whether guys come back here or go somewhere else you have to prove yourself."
The Redskins are considering making Johnson a franchise player and trading him for perhaps a first-round pick. However, the team doesn't have nearly the needed $7 million in salary cap room. Ultimately, Johnson will be able to choose possible offers from Baltimore, Tampa Bay and San Diego when free agency begins March 1.
"I'm sure I'll be in a different uniform," he said. "I have a lot more football in front of me. I gave this organization everything I had. It's unfortunate things didn't work out for a lot of different reasons. I feel like I'm ready to go."

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