Jason Campbell is almost certainly the best option to be the Redskins starter in 2010 – but only 2010. His skills seem to have regressed. The accuracy was never great and has not visibly improved. Many open receivers were missed this year even when he had plenty of time to throw. He was once renowned for unflappability in the pocket, but last season he started exhibiting jumpiness and rushing throws even when there was no pressure. The decision making, to my eye, has gotten visibly worse. This is most evident in choosing when to run. Coming into the year, one of Jason’s strengths was knowing when to hold on to the ball and make a play and when to pull it down and take the first down the defense was giving him. As the year progressed, he increasingly ran when he still had time (and no clear path to a first down) or hesitated when a run lane opened up and took a sack or was forced into a bad throw. His indecisiveness when given an opportunity to run for a first down cost the Redskins a chance to pull out the Week 12 Eagles game.
I have preached patience with Campbell for years. However, the same problems persist and the positive skills are regressing. I have become convinced that the way he looks now is his potential. I doubt there is much more progress to be seen. I am of course fully aware that his failure to develop is largely due to the bad circumstances he has been placed in. But it doesn’t really matter whose fault it is. The point is that even with a better supporting cast I think Campbell is an average at best starting quarterback. If we build a decent offensive line and find a scheme that utilizes our backs and receivers well, I do think that Campbell would hold us back. He is not so bad that he must be dumped on principle, and he is effective enough that you can live with him if you need to devote available resources to a greater need such as offensive line. But if he is the Redskins starter in 2011 we will be settling.
So offseason plans…
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the rumors of the Redskins taking Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford are true. As much as I would love to see one of the top offensive tackles taken there, I think we need to see this from Mike Shanahan’s point of view. He had a pet quarterback in Jay Cutler and that project was rudely and unexpectedly interrupted. He came to Washington to win his way, with his quarterback.
Obviously Shanahan sees the need for new tackles – but he also needs to think of his long term program. If Shanahan decides that Bradford or Clausen is the guy he can build around, it would be irresponsible not to draft him. There’s no guarantee there will be an opportunity to grab a good quarterback next year. Jason is stuck here for 2010 due to getting screwed out of free agency (the capless year is just a disaster for a lot of guys). From Shanahan’s perspective, it makes sense to let Jason endure the beating behind the unreconstructed line for one year, then next offseason more resources can be put into blockers for the QB who matters. I’m not saying Shanahan would be okay with a losing season – he is an extremely competitive guy. But he knows he has multi-year job security, and winning for a sustained period down the road is naturally more important than winning next year. If either of the top two QBs are the guy he wants, why not use the 2nd round pick on the best available player (who knows, maybe a lineman) and sign a couple of middling free agents to patch the tackle spots?
The free agent market for QBs is uninspiring, headlined by Daunte Culpepper and Chad Pennington. Not sure Culpepper is Shanahan’s type, but Pennington seems like an ideal option to be brought in as a number 2 or to compete to start. I am well aware of his arm-strength issues, but if Jason goes in the tank Pennington can be trusted to learn the system well and to execute it within his considerable limitations. And if forced into a backup role he will be okay with it and do his best to be a constructive presence. (If a miracle occurs and the cap is preserved, Kyle Orton will be an unrestricted free agent and would probably stand a good chance of beating Campbell for the job – or come to think of it he could step right in because Campbell would also be unrestricted and would be out the door).
If the burned out veterans are unpalatable, the best option may be to settle for a younger guy who has washed out of his first NFL stop – like if Brady Quinn or Kellen Clemens is cut loose. And I should also point out that I have seen nothing to indicate that Colt Brennan is an NFL quarterback, so I don’t think of him as an option when discussing future plans. Shanahan could have a different opinion, of course, but with a new regime in place I’m not sure Colt is even guaranteed to be in camp.
One final thought on Jason Campbell. To me he seems like one of those guys who can put together a long career as one of the better backup QBs in the league but who isn’t quite good enough to ever hold onto a starting job for long. He will be around a long time, and will probably get on the field a fair amount and occasionally be allowed to compete for a starting spot with younger draftee. It wouldn’t surprise me if many years from now he ends up on a solid team with a good scheme and he puts up one of those out-of-nowhere big quarterback years in his mid-thirties. That’s mostly a gut feeling, but at this stage it seems like a reasonable career path for him.
Previous position reviews: Offensive line, running backs, fullbacks, wide receivers, tight ends.