Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Position Overview: Quarterbacks

Confidence Level: 5 out of 10

Jay Cutler is a better quarterback than Jason Campbell. I’m not disputing that. But I can say with confidence that Campbell has improved every year and is fully capable of exploiting the successes of his line and receivers. If the line holds up, we find a receiver to replace Randle-El on the outside, and Zorn stays one step ahead of his opponents as a play-caller and game planner, Jason Campbell will absolutely not hold us back or cost us wins. It is far from guaranteed that he can take the next step and become a QB who can singlehandedly overcome the failures of others and make the offense greater than the sum of its parts. Personally, I give him about a 50-50 chance on that. Regardless, if the offense fails it’s probably not going to be Campbell’s fault. Also, the constant changing of offensive systems is no idle excuse. Everything we’ve heard out of the minicamps is about how the coaches are just now getting up to speed on what Zorn wants to do. So with that in mind, I’m inclined to withhold judgment on Campbell until we see how this season goes. But I am cautiously optimistic. And frankly, if we’re not going to be satisfied with a quarterback until we find a Peyton Manning or a John Elway, we’re going to have to sit through a lot of lost seasons.

You’ll notice Jim Zorn’s name came up repeatedly in the last paragraph. It’s rare to see a head coach this closely tied to his QB. He is also the quarterbacks coach and personally instructs Campbell on every detail of technique and in-game decision-making. Not to mention that he handles the play-calling personally and is in Campbell’s ear every play. Zorn and Campbell are going to succeed and fail together, and it will be difficult for us to parse the blame or credit. Given that this is Campbell’s contract year (assuming a CBA is reached and we don’t go capless) and that Dan Snyder is very unlikely to give Zorn a chance to develop another quarterback, they are both fighting for their jobs (and possibly their careers). Next year they will both be back or both be gone.

The only real quarterback competition in camp will be Colt Brennan against Todd Collins. Zorn has made it pretty obvious that he wants Colt to win the job, and I take most things from Zorn pretty seriously because unlike most coaches he tends to mean what he says. I’m rooting for Colt here, mostly because I have no faith in Todd Collins outside of the Al Saunders offense. Colt did make some pretty, pretty, throws in the preseason last year, and on paper he seems like a good fit for the system. But there were also a number of throws floated into traffic that would have been intercepted if the defense had their starters in. If we have to put Colt into a game, I’m picturing a few beautiful plays cancelled out by at least two picks returned for touchdowns. As for his relationship with Campbell – there is no way Colt Brennan should see the field until the playoffs are totally out of the question, to see if he’s a reasonable option to be our quarterback for 2010. Of course the value of developing him in-season would be limited, since Zorn and his system will almost certainly be gone if this scenario plays out.

My understanding is that Chase Daniel’s fate is entirely tied to the results of the Collins-Brennan contest. If Colt wins the 2nd spot, Collins is a goner and Daniels gets to hang on as number 3. If Collins wins, Colt goes down to 3 and Daniel is either on the practice squad or out the door. So basically, Chase Daniels should be the biggest Colt Brennan fan in town right now.

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