You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
Well, the rough draft of the Tuesday Take goes into the recycle bin. That was the one that was going to break down some of Mark Brunell's plays as illustrations of why he needed to be benched. But Joe Gibbs saved me the trouble of finishing that one by announcing that Jason Campbell would start at quarterback on Sunday.
So, instead of analyzing and rehashing what happened in the past, we need to examine what's might happen from here on out. Since Campbell has never taken an NFL snap—in fact, he's never even been active for the 27 games he's been on an NFL roster, having spent every one of those as the third quarterback—that's a very tricky proposition. It's especially problematic since the performance of the quarterback has ripple effects that go throughout the entire team. But taking a wild stab at things is one of the things we do here, so here goes.
A lot of negative things will go up. The Redskins will turn the ball over more. Campbell won't necessarily become a turnover machine, but one thing that Brunell was doing very well was protecting the ball, perhaps to a fault. Only three teams have thrown fewer interceptions than the four the Redskins have thrown this year. If Campbell can keep the interceptions at the league average, which is about one a game, that would be a remarkable performance. It's more likely that you'll see the picks go up to more like 1.5 a game, with some three-interception games thrown in on occasion.
On top of the interceptions, it's easy to see Campbell getting stripped of the ball from time to time as he learns how to deal with an NFL pass rush. If the Redskins can manage to end up with an average number of turnovers per game, that would be remarkable. As long as they don't end up with a minus three in the giveaway-takeaway ratio, they'll be OK.
The Redskins also can look forward to going in to the final two minutes of each half with a reduced number of timeouts in their pocket. It's not as though Brunell never burned one early in confusion over the play call, but it is likely to be a more frequent occurrence as Campbell gets acclimated to running the offense in real time in real game situations.
We also will get used to seeing the ball thrown to an empty patch of grass as the receiver will cut one way and Campbell will throw it the other way. When that happens, just remember that the incompletion is only the second-worst possible consequence of such a miscommunication. The quarterback and the receivers will undoubtedly spend some extra time going over the routes to try to minimize such occurrences, but they can only be minimized, not eliminated.
What's the upside to compensate for all of this misery? We have no idea. And that's the fun part of all of this. We get to see the career of Campbell unfold before our eyes. We'll find out what he does well and what he needs to work on. We'll see how the Redskins will try to maximize his strengths and how opponents will try to exploit his weaknesses.
One thing that we almost certainly will see is Campbell throwing downfield. This doesn't mean that it's bombs away with Campbell showing off his arm strength with 50-yard heaves, although we will see a couple of those a game. I'm talking more about the 18-yard out patterns, more skinny post patterns down the middle of the field.
Beyond that, we don't know. Some inexperienced quarterbacks, like Ben Roethlisberger, come in and can win right away. However, Roethlisberger had the benefit of a good defense and a strong running game in Pittsburgh. The Washington defense is suspect at its best moments. We will see how well Ladell Betts and, possibly, T. J. Duckett can keep the Redskins ground game going in the absence of Clinton Portis. Some solid productivity there would go a long way towards making Campbell's effort to get his feet under him.
One thing is certain: Joe Gibbs' legacy is on the line here. Jason Campbell is Gibbs' handpicked quarterback of the future. In the days before the 2005 draft, Gibbs personally flew to Auburn to work him out and to interview him. Gibbs pulled the trigger on a deal that sent three draft picks, including the team's 2006 first rounder, for the 25th pick in '05.
Simply put, Campbell represents Gibbs' last chance to turn the franchise around and leave it in better shape than it was when he got here in 2004. If Campbell develops into at least a competent quarterback, the Redskins could make some noise while Gibbs is still the coach and have a solid foundation for when he moves into the front office. If he is a bust, the Redskins have to start all over again at the most important position on the field.
It's either the beginning of the Jason Campbell Era or the revelation of the Jason Campbell Error. We'll start to find out which it is on Sunday.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com