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
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
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