QUOTE: “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” -- William Arthur Ward
For some teams, December football means trying to get into the playoffs. For others, it means trying to decide which players are worth counting on for next year. Last week, we saw quarterback s Jason Campbell of the ‘Skins, Brady Quinn of the Browns , Alex Smith of the 49ers and Bruce Gradkowski of the Raiders lead their teams and show incredible progress, which gives their teams some hope for the future. The fundamental question that faces each front office is: Are they worth counting on for next year or should the teams hedge their bets and bring in another player, either via the draft or as a free agent? Campbell has played four years of football, which is clearly enough to make some long-range decisions. So he’s the easiest call since he’s started the most games.
Today, I’ll examine him, and this afternoon in the Tavern, I’ll look at Quinn.
Campbell has played well the past four weeks, even though his team is only 1-3. He is 93/142 passing for 1,047 yards, six TDs and four INTs. He has made 123 plays of over 25 yards and has been sacked only five times in four weeks. He’s playing behind a makeshift offensive line but has brought life to a once dormant offense. Since losing running back Clinton Portis, the ‘Skins offense has been able to function well and has scored 87 points in four games, which is a huge upgrade. Portis was not the same back he used to be, and it appeared the team’s game plan, especially early in the game, was to feed him the ball. Now, with him gone, the ‘Skins can run their offense, and Campbell has performed very well. He has thrown the deep ball well and has made some of the younger players look promising, especially wide receiver Devin Thomas and tight end Fred Davis.
Campbell has great size and a big arm, and if he was surrounded by a better line, I really feel he could be effective for the ‘Skins. His ability to throw the ball accurately down the field has improved, which is supported by his 7.4 yards-per-attempt average -- the highest it’s ever been in his four-year career. With his arm, he should be able to make throws down the field, which should translate into a large yards-per-attempt average. His decision-making has improved, his reaction time has gotten better and his eye level has been focused down the field. All of this improvement has occurred without talking to the play caller, Sherman Lewis, and having multiple coaches in his ear. Imagine how good he could become if you removed the dysfunction of the ‘Skins from his life?
For owner Daniel Snyder, who is the Redskins front office, keeping Campbell is a rather simple decision since there’s not an alternative on the roster right now. When Snyder makes a change with his coaching staff, Campbell’s future will again be in the balance, but this time, I really feel he’ll have some trade value based on his recent play. Last year, when the ‘Skins were flirting with Jay Cutler or moving up in the draft for Mark Sanchez, Campbell was not an asset to use in helping the ‘Skins make those moves. But now, he appears to be a much better player, albeit with some of the same mistakes, but he has demonstrated tremendous progress. He is far from perfect, but he can function well, and if the right supporting cast is around him, he can help a team win. So if Snyder does give the keys to the Redskins kingdom to Mike Shanahan, he will at least have a short-term option for Shanahan to work with at quarterback. Campbell might not be the perfect Mike Shanahan kind of quarterback, but the alternatives might not be as promising, either.
Campbell does have the ability to move around, and he can run all the boots and nakeds that make Shanahan’s offense so effective. His exposure to the terminology of the West Coast offense would allow him to adapt to the Shanahan offense, and there would be less transition time. It’s not a stretch to think that Campbell, based on his recent play, could be effective in the Shanahan offense as long as he can demonstrate an ability to lead the team and handle the volume of offense.
Maybe the draft will yield a young star, but in the meantime, it will be hard to find a better quarterback available than Campbell. It’s easy to say run him off, but who replaces him? For me, I’m keeping Campbell and optimistic about his ability to keep improving.
Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi
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