You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
This wasn't supposed to be a two-part series on a brewing backup quarterback controversy (as fitting as that is for the Washington Redskins), but there were a few things left dangling the other day in looking at Todd Collins' qualifications for the job, particularly some points on Jason Campbell.
At 6-4, 228 Campbell has the prototypical size for an NFL quarterback. His throwing style is a bit unorthodox but the ball can get where it's going on target and with touch.
The problem with this analysis is that it is based solely on observations made in training camp, at practice and in some limited preseason action. He did not take a snap in his 2005 rookie year. Not only did he not take the field, there was never a situation where the team thought he might need to be pressed into action so he never took a substantial number of reps with the first team, if any. Campbell is as green as a second-year pro can be.
However, that doesn't mean that Campbell didn't leave an impression last year. In fact, Joe Gibbs was quite impressed with Campbell. Shortly after the season, he said the following:
I feel confident that, if Jason had been thrust into things this year, he would have played well. . . My impression is that he's very accurate. I think he's going to be a guy that can really roam with a football. I think he's going to make plays with his feet. I think he has a sense of what the pocket is. He'll slide. He's going to be hard to sack because he's so big. We've seen a lot out of him. Now, he needs to play. We'll get into that. I laughingly told him, 'Take the hat off and throw it away. You're getting ready to go work. You're going to have to earn your money.'
It is important to note that Gibbs does not issue such praise lightly. While he rarely is critical of a player in public, a query about a player who isn't performing well in his eyes is generally brushed off with a comment on how hard he is working or another such platitudes. Rarely will he launch into extended, unqualified praise and when he does it means something.
It doesn't mean, however, that Campbell is ready to play. The NFL roadside is strewn with the bodies of quarterbacks who looked good in practice and in practice games but fell apart when the real bullets started flying. All we can do is read tea leaves to figure out what might happen if an injury to Mark Brunell were to force Campbell into action.
One thing that is very clear is that inexperienced quarterbacks pressed into action are not automatically doomed to failure. One needs to look no further back than last February to see a young QB who was pressed into action early in his career raising the Lombardi Trophy. That was Ben Roethlisberger, a product of Miami of Ohio, a member of the MAC. He was pressed into action early in his rookie 2004 season, took the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game and he led Steelers all the way last year.
Yes, but that's a fluke, right? A once in a lifetime phenomenon.
Well, not unless you were born after 2001. It was that year that a second-year quarterback who had played just a handful of snaps in his rookie year took over for an injured veteran early in the season. When the veteran was healthy and ready to play the kid stayed at the helm. That season didn't end for Tom Brady until he and the Patriots walked off of the field as Super Bowl champs.
The other side of the coin is that every Brady out there is counterbalanced by half a dozen or so young quarterbacks who were either outright busts (Heath Shuler), mediocre (Patrick Ramsey) or good but not great (Eli Manning).
One thing that separates the Big Bens from the Ramsey's is the quality of personnel surrounding them. A stud offensive line, a good running game and a stout defense are a young quarterback's best friends. Roethlisberger certainly had those factors as his allies the past two years and Campbell could count on his Redskins teammates to help smooth over any rough spots.
Still, we won't know how Campbell will do until he gets out there. As was discussed here earlier, we really don't know that much about how Todd Collins would play if he were to be inserted as the starter in the event of an injury to Brunell.
It says here that barring any unexpected events in training camp or in preseason games Campbell should get the first shot if Brunell is sidelined. If he plays well, that will surprise many. Some of us, though, will have known it all along.
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 in 1937 through the 2001 season. For details and ordering information, go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com