Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nice guys finish last

Oakland.  Oakland?  Even after escaping the Redskins Jason Campbell can't catch a break.

Being Jason Campbell, he said all the right things and handled the situation with class.  But this is a guy who really needs stability, and now he's been sent to a franchise that makes the Redskins look well-managed.

It's not all bad.  He is the best quarterback on that roster by a very wide margin, and if the Raiders find relative success next year Jason will get much of the credit.  He also got another year tacked onto the end of his contract, which seems like the best of both worlds.  He has a little job security but can still escape in a reasonable amount of time if things aren't working out.

Jason is a better option than some teams have at quarterback, and he is certainly better than JaMarcus Russel or Bruce Gradkowski.  But he is limited.  For years we have waited for him to really be in command of an offense.  Like a college quarterback, he never seemed to get past waiting for a man to get open and then getting him the ball.  He never quite progressed to the point that he was anticipating the coverage and making a throw with the expectation that the receiver would be getting open a second later.  And some of his skills regressed.  For a long time he was unflappable in the pocket despite consistent protection issues.  Also he is a very good runner, but in the past he had been most notable for making proper decisions about when to run.  He would stick with a play just long enough, and then when given a first down opportunity he would take it.  In 2009 those skills disappeared.  He rushed throws even when there wasn't pressure, or hesitated too long before running and took unnecessary sacks.  Obviously these problems are mostly the results of his teammate's weaknesses, but an ability to survive despite the shortcomings of others is frankly an important measure of a quarterback's quality.  And we all know that a lot of wide open receivers were missed downfield.

Jason is at an awkard talent level.  He is better than at least a third, perhaps close to half, of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL.  That means he is good enough that he should never be content as a backup, but no team should be content with him as a starter.  Barring unexpected sustained success in Oakland, he seems destined for a rather itinerant career path.  I picture him as the kind of guy you bring in for the comfort of having one of the better backup quarterbacks in football, or to hold a starting job temporarily while a younger guy is developed.  These careers can be long and lucrative, but must be frustrating as well.

Jason is, above all, a nice guy.  Almost all Redskins fans, except for those who only watch sports for the opportunity to be relentlessly and mindlessly critical, liked him and wanted him to succeed.  I often described him as one of the few football players who you wouldn't mind dating your daughter.  As long as he stays out of the NFC East, I know I will always be rooting for him.  He deserves to win some and to be valued.

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