Football isn’t exactly rocket science, but Joshua Dobbs sees some similarities. “There’s definitely some synergy,” he said. “I always say engineering and quarterback have a lot of crossover, just in the mental aspect of both.” As a freshman at the University of Tennessee, his professors would throw many problems at him, and he’d have to find a way to solve them. It was difficult work, but at least he didn’t have to do it with a 40-second play clock ticking down.
“You have to critically think of how to solve problems efficiently and repeat process,” he said. “Football is the same way. You show up, the defense presents a plethora of difficulties and scenarios and pressures and blitzes and fronts, and throw all those at you.” After relaying the play to his teammates in the huddle, Dobbs must survey the defense from under center and ensure the offense is in a position to succeed. Am I in the right play now? he asks himself. Or what play do I need to attack the defense and repeat process?
Simple enough, right? For Dobbs, maybe. As you may have heard, he has an aerospace engineering degree. Fewer things are more complicated than rocket science. Dobbs is probably one of the only players in the league who can process a playbook as quickly as he did after the Minnesota Vikings traded for him at the deadline. He has put in his time at their Eagan facility and performed on the field. It’s easy to look back now and wonder why he didn’t stick with the six other teams he has played for, but he doesn’t dwell on that.
“I’m just focused on my journey,” said Dobbs. “As I think back to my journey, obviously, I was in Pittsburgh for a prolonged period of time. Kind of recognized that I might need to go and search out a different opportunity in order to get on the field. And when I did that, I kinda understood that my journey may be a little unique.”
Instead of framing his football journey as something that happened to him, he has taken an active role in finding the right opportunity for himself. He is a journeyman in the literal sense of the word. He started this season in training camp with the Cleveland Browns, made eight starts with the Arizona Cardinals, and has won two games in Minnesota. Most of his stuff is in a rented house in Phoenix. His car arrived in the Twin Cities last week.
“Cleveland pitched me on the opportunity to have a bigger role of going and being a Day 1 starter in Arizona, which thus has landed me here at this stage of the season,” said Dobbs. “Each stop, each opportunity, my role has grown. An opportunity to get on the field, contribute, and be a starting quarterback in the National Football League has continued to grow.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers took Dobbs in the fourth round of the 2017 draft and signed him to a four-year, $2.9 million contract. In 2019, the Steelers traded Dobbs to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a fifth-round pick after Mason Rudolph won the starting job. Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles broke his clavicle in the season opener, and they needed another quarterback. But Dobbs never played in Jacksonville, and they waived him in 2020.
Pittsburgh re-signed him, and he played one game in 2020. He battled Dwayne Haskins for the QB3 spot in camp the following year but landed on IR with a toe injury in August 2021. In April 2022, he signed with the Cleveland Browns, but they waived him after Deshaun Watson returned from suspension in November.
“[I was] in Cleveland for all 12 weeks, and then Deshaun came back, and I was released due to a logistics situation on the roster and not due to talent,” Dobbs said. “I was like, ‘Hey if I want to play this year, I need to go somewhere else so teams are aware that I’m searching for an opportunity to play at the end of the season. And then I ultimately got the opportunity to go to Tennessee at the end of the season [and] start those last two games there.”
Cleveland released Dobbs on November 28, and the Detroit Lions picked him up on December 5. On December 21, the Tennessee Titans signed Dobbs off Detroit’s practice squad. Ryan Tannehill had suffered a season-ending injury, and Malik Willis was struggling as a rookie, so Titans coach Mike Vrabel named Dobbs his starter. Dobbs went 20/39 for 232 yards and threw his first career touchdown pass in Week 17.
He got the start the next week, with the Titans needing a win over Jacksonville to clinch the division. Dobbs went 20/29 for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Tennessee led for most of the game, but Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins hit Dobbs from behind, and he fumbled the ball. Jenkins scooped it up the and returned it 37 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with under three minutes to go. Jacksonville won 20-16, costing the Titans a playoff spot.
Dobbs said that he recognized about a year ago that he had to actively seek out the best opportunity “and I kinda accepted that that was gonna be my journey, man. Whatever opportunity is thrown my way, no matter how big or small, I was gonna make the most of it.”
The Browns signed Dobbs again in March 2023, then traded him to the Cardinals. Dobbs went 1-7 in eight starts with Arizona before the Vikings traded for him at the deadline. Despite arriving in the middle of the week and spending no time practicing with the first team, Dobbs replaced Jaren Hall when he suffered a concussion in Atlanta and orchestrated a 31-28 victory. Then he followed it up with a 23/34, 268-yard performance in Minnesota’s 27-19 win over the New Orleans Saints.
Dobbs has arrived in a place where he can succeed. He has a former journeyman quarterback as his head coach, an excellent offensive line, and viable weapons in T.J. Hockenson, Jordan Addison, and Justin Jefferson when he returns. Dobbs uses his engineering background to succeed on the gridiron, and he has more to work with in Minnesota than he has at many of his other stops. It feels fitting for a rocket scientist who has played for a constellation of teams and finally has landed among the stars.