Shallow Analysis

Did Saunders have Campbell throw too much?

Tandler's Redskins Blog Ver. 12.08.06--Mike Wilbon is one of the most respected columnists out there but he's going to lose his reputation if he continues the shallow, vapid analysis he cranked out in his article today.

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

Generally speaking, I'm a fan of Mike Wilbon. He is one of the most reasonable, knowledgeable, and respected newspaper columnists in the business. Rarely does he say or write something outrageous just for the sake of doing so or ask a question of a coach or athlete that is carefully crafted to draw attention to himself. This sets him apart from many of his brethren who have also become print/ESPN hybrids.

That's why I was disappointed in his effort in today's Post. Not that I disagree with his main thesis, that the Redskins desperately need a personnel manager who isn't wearing a whistle. That is becoming more and more obvious every play that T. J. Duckett and Adam Archuleta watch. No, there were two points that he made that need to be examined here. First there was this one:

Look no further than the Redskins' loss to Atlanta four days ago. Okay, neophyte quarterback Jason Campbell certainly didn't have a good day. He played like what he is essentially -- a rookie. But Campbell was nowhere near as incompetent as his coaches on Sunday. How, in good conscience, could Al Saunders or Gibbs (and whoever else might have called plays) allow a kid making his third NFL start to throw 38 passes? Coaches talk all the time about how they must put players in position to do well. How does asking a newborn quarterback to throw 38 times work to his advantage?

Too busy traveling to the Monday night game city to do PTI or to wherever you're doing the NBA pregame from, Mike, to do any more analysis of the Redskins game than to take a cursory glance at the final stats? If Wilbon had just taken a moment to pull up the Gamebook he could have figured out, just as I did, that in the first half when the Redskins had their 14-0 lead, Campbell threw 11 passes. In the third quarter, as the Redskins fell behind by three, the pace of passes increased slightly as Campbell threw seven times. Even after Atlanta took a 10-point lead with 12:26 to play Saunders tried not to place the entire game on Campbell's shoulders. On the ensuing series Saunders called Ladell Betts' number three times before calling for Campbell to throw. His third and two pass was incomplete. If anything, one might be tempted to call that series too conservative.

It was only after the Redskins regained possession with 6:22 left trailing by 10 that Campbell passes started to fill the air. In two futile attempts to score to try to pull the game out, Campbell threw 19 passes, exactly half of his total for the game. I don't think that any reasonable person would conclude that Saunders was in a position where he had to call passes on virtually every single play. The game situation greatly inflated Campbell's pass attempts. Anyone who was paying attention should know this and acknowledge it before taking potshots at the play calling.

And then, along those same lines, there's this:

The Saunders experiment should be about over now. Twelve games of disaster isn't enough?

Mind you, Wilbon says this after stating that, "Any routine examination of the Redskins now reveals a team that constantly (and unsuccessfully) tries to remake itself. . ." in the second paragraph of the column. So since they try to remake themselves too often and that damages the team they should remake themselves again and get rid of Saunders? Again, he's probably too busy to look it up but one can easily discover that the Chiefs' offense struggled in Saunders' first season calling the plays in Kansas City. I suppose that Wilbon would have had Dick Vermeil pull the plug on Saunders three quarters of the way through that season, too. Of course, once the Chiefs got things figured out they became the NFL's most prolific offense for the next four seasons.

Let's look at it this way—is it better to have Jason Campbell pass 19 times in the last six minutes of a game that this team is trailing by 10 points or to have him learning his seventh new offense in the past seven seasons.

Such "analysis" is more worthy of Wilbon's vapid PTI and Washington Post sidekick that it is of a Pro Football Hall of Fame elector. Perhaps if he's too busy to do the kind of in-depth analysis he needs to do in order to maintain his top-notch reputation he needs to hire a research assistant. I'm available, for the right price.

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. It makes the perfect stocking stuffer for the Redskins fans on your shopping list. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

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