Heading Into His 16th Start, Is Campbell Feeling 'It'?

"Jason is still a young guy and he's still a bit timid," John Riggins said of Jason Campbell. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
By Mike Wise
Sunday, November 11, 2007

John Riggins was asked if Joe Theismann had "It."

"That thing, whatever you call it -- oh yeah, he had it," Riggins said.

How did you know?

"How did I know? Hell, I'm still taking orders from Theismann," he said. "You get around him for a couple of hours, you still think you're in the middle of the huddle."

Does Jason Campbell have "It"?

"Jason is still a young guy and he's still a bit timid," Riggins said. "Now, is it a personality trait that he's a little meek and mild? I don't know. But at some point, you have to have a little larceny in your heart."

"It" belongs to a player carrying a certain gravitas or heft -- a personality and demeanor that others feel more than they see or hear. "It," basically, is the presence one needs to lead others to victory upon victory in the NFL.

Ability. A flat-out gun of an arm. Statistics. None of that counts. Instead, this is unquantifiable, an intangible just oozing command and control. It's an aura, often conveyed in a player's mannerisms or gait. And it makes every teammate intuitively know, "The starting quarterback just walked into the locker room."

Greatness is not a prerequisite, either. Most of Trent Dilfer's teammates in Seattle knew the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001 almost in spite of him. But Dilfer had a walk about him. He came stomping into a room barrel-chested, in a big leather jacket. He had a certain manliness, a clear and defined presence.

We relate this today because one year ago this week, a quiet and reserved youngster from Taylorsville, Miss., took over the Redskins' starting quarterback job from Mark Brunell. With the equivalent of a full season almost under his belt, Campbell strides under center this afternoon at FedEx Field for his 16th game as a starter. His counterpart today and role model in college, Donovan McNabb, used to have "It" and now is in desperate need of recapturing the respect in Philadelphia he once engendered.

Campbell has, at times, been efficient and shown himself to be a playmaker during Washington's uneven 5-3 start. His strong arm has given the Redskins an occasional semblance of a downfield passing game they did not have a year ago. He also has thrown more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six), lost four fumbles and remains the only starting NFL quarterback who has not thrown a touchdown pass to one of his wide receivers, though it's not for lack of going long.

"I threw that one to the tunnel, didn't I?" he said in self-deprecation after badly overthrowing Santana Moss in overtime last week. "It's right there, I just need to pull back a little."

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