Monday, May 5, 2014

Heads Up Quads punches me in the gut with some 2002 memories

I thought about collecting the Heads Up Quads set back in the day, and when I did this card is one of the ones I originally owned.  And it had a patch too - and the patch was for my favorite guy on the card!  But it's a card with weird memories attached to it based on the subjects involved, and I wasn't sure I wanted to really go for the set then, so I ended up reselling it on COMC at the time at a slight profit.  Kinda wish I had that one back (spoiler image located here).

I think the version I have now works better with the subjects of the card though, so it's probably a better fit for my collection.  So without further adieu, the 2002 Buccaneers QB foursome jersey quad, #36 in the set:
So this card came out in early 2002, and I'm not sure if you all remember this, but the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl for the 2002 season, with the quarterbacks on this card.  That's pretty darn impressive, and really speaks to the value of the patch guy here, Brad Johnson.  Johnson was a 9th round pick in the 1992 draft by the Minnesota Vikings, and after riding the pine for a few years he looked pretty good in 13 starts in 1997.  But an injury let Randall Cunningham take over in 1998 after just two games, and Cunningham never looked back.  So in the offseason Johnson was traded to the Washington Redskins for a 1st, future 2nd, and 3rd round pick - quite the package of picks coming from Washington.  Jeff George took Brad Johnson's roster spot as the backup, which will come up later.

The picks were somewhat worth it, as Johnson made the Pro Bowl in 1999 and led the Redskins to 10 wins.  The next year though, he regressed, with a much worse TD:INT ratio and only 8 wins for the Redskins.  He lost his starting job to Jeff George in the offseason (see told you he'd be back) and signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent (George, by the way, was so bad in two games to start 2001 that he was released and replaced by free agent Tony Banks, who started the rest of the season for Washington).

Johnson's Tampa Bay career was great, if a bit injury ridden.  He was good in 2001 and 2003, but he was at his best in 2002 when he made the Pro Bowl in a career year that culminated in the Buccaneers winning that Super Bowl. As such he's likely very fondly remember in Tampa Bay.  However, in 2004 he was benched for the combination of Chris Simms and Brian Griese after losing 11 of his last 15 games.  He ended up starting 23 games over the next two seasons with the Vikings before moving to Dallas for 2007 and 2008, where he started 3 games in his final season in the league.  Johnson finished his career with 166 touchdowns and 122 interceptions, and a very nice 72-53 record.

Joe Hamilton was a 7th round pick by the 2000 Buccaneers, and in his one game as a rookie he ended up with one carry for -2 yards.  In 2001 he didn't play, and between 2001 and 2002 he was allocated to NFL Europe where he played quite well before suffering an ACL tear.  That injury put him on injured reserve for the 2002 season, and though he was released when the season ended, Hamilton did earn a Super Bowl ring for his time with the team.  Hamilton then played some Arena Football and had a brief moment with the Indianapolis Colts before hanging up his cleats and moving onto college ranks, first as a coach and later as a recruiter.

Here we have the back, which has some real nice color thanks to Rob Johnson's time with the Buffalo Bills.  Johnson had a sort of weird career - he started as a 4th round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in their inaugural season.  He was probably viewed as the groom-able quarterback behind old farts Mark Brunell and Steve Beurlein, but Brunell took the reigns and never let go, so all Johnson turned into was a guy with nice preseason stats.

Buffalo took notice of Johnson, and in the 1997-98 offseason, they traded 1st and 4th round draft picks to Jacksonville for the rights to Johnson.  He was immediately named starter and signed a 5 year, $25 million dollar contract.  But he couldn't even finish his first game as a Bill after being knocked out with a concussion, and so his time in Buffalo is largely remembered for injuries and his being a "co-starter" with Doug Flutie.  After 26 starts over 4 years, Johnson was released in 2001 and he signed with the 2002 Buccaneers to backup Brad Johnson.  He went 2-0 in his two starts, including a week 17 win over the Bears, and got a championship ring for his contributions.  Johnson then split 20 passing attempts in 2003 between Washington and Oakland and never got a stat in the NFL again.  It wasn't for lack of trying though - Johnson had Tommy John Surgery in 2004 and tried comebacks with the Titans (2004), Giants through the preseason (2006), and the Titans once again (2008).

The last guy on this card, one of my personal all time favorite quarterbacks, and the guy who had a patch on the version of this card I used to own, is Shaun King.  King, a 2nd round pick by the Buccaneers in 1999, started five games as a rookie instead of Trent Dilfer and Eric Zeier, and looked quite electric in the process.  So in 2000 King was given the full reigns as Dilfer left for Baltimore (and won his own championship).  King started all 16 games in 2001, and had an 18:13 TD:INT ratio along with a 10-6 record.  And more importantly, he became one of my favorite NFL players due to his flashy play.  The Buccaneers rewarded his effort by signing Brad Johnson and immediately naming him starter, and Johnson rewarded that good faith with a nice 2001 and a fantastic 2002, including that championship.  Between 2001 and 2003 King saw action in just 9 games with 1 start, which occurred during the 2002 season after an injury to Brad Johnson.  King's start versus the Steelers was brutal - he was 9/26 passing with an interception and was eventually replaced by Rob Johnson - so you can't blame Tampa Bay for never starting King again.  King would then start two games for the 2004 Arizona Cardinals before his statistical NFL career ended.  King tried to sign on with a few NFL teams and teams from other leagues, but nothing ever really came to fruition and King is now better known as a college football analyst for Fox Sports Net.

Who wins the card? Brad Johnson really should win it, because without him the 2002 Buccaneers season doesn't happen.  But I'm giving it to Shaun King because I'm horribly biased (I did used to PC him after all) and I remember his 1999-2000 years fondly.  I always wonder if the Buccaneers would've still won that championship with King at QB rather than Brad Johnson.  Probably not, but I guess we'll never really know.

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