Saunders: The Ripple Effects

Al Saunders

Our Redskins beat reporter John Keim looks at how the installation of Al Saunders as offensive coordinator will change the team.

Just wondering about certain aspects of the Al Saunders hiring:

...Will this somehow slow Jason Campbell's progress? It shouldn't. Campbell won't have to learn a new offense; rather, he'll just have to add to the one he's already learning. And that's good: before the draft, Auburn coaches told teams that Campbell might take some time to develop. Not that he wouldn't be good, but that teams needed to be patient.

If he had been forced to learn another offense, his development would have been set back a year. That's not the case.

...Will Jack Burns return as quarterbacks coach? I doubt it. And if he does, that's not a good thing. Burns is probably the least respected coach on the staff, say those around the league. We've talked to a couple players who would agree with that assessment based on what they've said. The Redskins would be better off finding another QB coach, one who can work well with Campbell in particular. His development is more important than anything.

...Should the QB job be opened up? It should be, but it probably won't. Mark Brunell gassed and wheezed his way to the finish line this season. He deserves a mighty pat on the back for helping Washington into the playoffs. But if this team is to develop, it needs better quarterback play. Will another quality receiver help that? Maybe.

However, I'm not sold on Brunell being the guy who could lead Washington to a Super Bowl, which is clearly the Redskins' desire. Is Campbell ready? We'll find out this summer. Thing is, there needs to be another veteran in the mix. So if they get rid of Patrick Ramsey -- yes, he truly was part of no conversations at Al Saunders' press conference -- they'll still have to find another QB. And I wouldn't expect Joe Gibbs to go with two kids as backups.

That's why I chuckled when reading how much they could save by trading Ramsey. Yes, they'd save $1.7 million upon cutting him. But a decent backup would cost between $1 million and $1.5 million.

... Is Campbell close? It's hard to say. He's been helped facing an NFL defense every day, even if he's not running Washington's offense. He made plays last summer and showed a good arm and mobility. But he also showed a penchant for slow decisions, which would kill him during a game. His windup is pronounced when he's not decisive. Experience can cure that indecisiveness. It may be that Brunell starts the season and if he slips at all, Campbell could get the call. Of course, it's not even February so maybe we should relax just a bit.

...A column in the Kansas City Star about Saunders created a stir, ripping him for being a backstabber who curries favors with the media. It was written by columnist Jason Whitlock, never afraid to rip anyone. Even if it's not always accurate. In this case, who knows? I talked to a source in Kansas City who had nothing but good things to say about Saunders. I talked to a team that was interested in him as a head coach and they were high on him, too. But I also talked to another league source who had not read Whitlock's piece yet echoed similar concerns, dating to Saunders' days as a Chargers' coach.

However, Gibbs is unlikely to hire someone who he truly felt would be this way. Dick Vermeil is a good friend of his and surely if Vermeil had warned Gibbs about Saunders, I doubt the move would have been made. The best thing Gibbs does -- it's never been X's and O's -- is team-building. It's hard to imagine he'd want to damage what he's built among this staff.

The conclusion? We'll have to wait and see. It's hard to judge a guy you don't know.

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