By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
In announcing the backup to starting quarterback Mark Brunell, Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs yesterday unveiled a nuanced, multilayered compromise that acknowledged the respective positions of quarterbacks Todd Collins and Jason Campbell, as well as new associate head coach Al Saunders.
Should Brunell suffer an injury during the course of a game, Collins would be the first to replace him. But Gibbs's decision of making Collins his primary backup came with one important condition: Should the Redskins be without Brunell for at least a full week of practice, Campbell would be the game-day starter, with Collins assuming the backup responsibilities.
Never in Gibbs's tenure as a head coach has he agreed to such fluidity at quarterback, he said, but the move played into what Gibbs considered the strengths of both men.
And while he laid out the unconventional blueprint, Gibbs added that performance would remain the ultimate judge and that specific scenarios would be addressed as they arose, not with a rigid flow chart.
"If there's a week's work to start a game, we'll start Jason," Gibbs said. "If there's anything that would happen in a game, then it's going to be Todd. That's the way we'll start the year. Now, as the year goes, things could change. Obviously, every day and every practice and every game could change any situation, but it's the best way for us to go into the season."
Despite nagging injuries to his knees and ribs, Brunell, who turns 36 in two weeks, started all 16 games last season and two playoff games. He has not missed a start because of injury since joining the Redskins in 2004.
In the Redskins' final preseason game, last Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens, Collins impressed Gibbs by completing 13 of 22 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown in the second half. Particularly important to Gibbs was the fact that Collins, 34, entered the game earlier than expected when Campbell suffered a hamstring injury. Entering a game cold and performing at a high level is precisely what Gibbs is looking for in a backup.
"I think he is a gutsy guy. . . . The other night it said a lot to everybody," Gibbs said of Collins. "He went in with a bunch of young guys in the second half. What he showed there is what we think we have. We have someone who is also very talented, big strong and makes good, quick decisions."
But Gibbs maintained that Campbell, 24, is the team's quarterback of the future, and a week to prepare before his first career start would allow him time to gain confidence. Gibbs's compromise also means Campbell isn't relegated to the third-string quarterback for a second consecutive year. In discussing Campbell, Gibbs displayed an enthusiasm that had been missing from his previous comments.
"Jason has done every single thing that we have asked," Gibbs said. "He is very talented. He can run, is big and strong. He showed that in preseason. I think he can throw a ball in places that a lot of people can't. He is extremely competitive. He is somebody who has done it all in high school and college at two of the biggest programs you could be in. We have a real talented guy that we think is the future of the Redskins."
Meantime, Saunders, who arrived in February from Kansas City, handpicked Collins, who was signed to a $2 million contract. Saunders wanted Collins, his backup quarterback with the Chiefs, because of his familiarity with the complex scheme.
For the majority of training camp, Saunders seemed completely at ease with Collins's understanding of and ability to execute his complicated system. But Saunders and Gibbs tended to differ in their immediate assessment of Campbell. Gibbs said yesterday he felt Campbell was "ready to win some games." Saunders has consistently praised Campbell's progress but has stopped short of describing him as undeniably game-ready.
"I think what Jason has done since he's come in here is worked himself silly," Gibbs said. "When we changed to Al running the show, obviously there's a lot of new things, a lot more volume to it, more rhythm passing and Jason went right to work on that. He was the quarterback who was here the entire offseason, during the break. He's worked with [quarterbacks coach] Billy Lazor. He's done a lot of film work. What he did, including in the preseason, was show some of the things we think he can do."
Redskins Notes: Gibbs said that defensive linemen Cornelius Griffin and Phillip Daniels were cleared to practice. Daniels missed the final three preseason games because of a strained back he suffered in practice. Griffin injured his right knee with 9 minutes 43 seconds remaining in the first quarter of the Redskins' second exhibition game, a 27-14 loss to the New York Jets, and has not played or practiced since. Renaldo Wynn, the backup defensive end who sprained his ankle Aug. 26 at New England may practice by Thursday, Gibbs said. . . .
Gibbs also said running back Clinton Portis and cornerback Shawn Springs are still day-to-day and he was unsure if either will be available for Monday's opener at FedEx Field against the Minnesota Vikings.
"The decision will be pretty much up to them," he said. . . .
Offensive lineman Jasper Harvey, who was released by the Redskins on Saturday, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, joining their practice squad.