By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Sidelined down the stretch because of a dislocated left kneecap, Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell did what he could to contribute during the team's season-ending four-game winning streak. Campbell shared his insights with backup Todd Collins, encouraged teammates and remained upbeat about Washington's late-season run to a playoff berth despite his frustration.
Almost recovered from the injury that cut short his season, Campbell last week expressed confidence about his standing as the No. 1 quarterback heading into the offseason and voiced his hope that the team's next head coach will retain the current coaching staff. Confident Washington is headed in the right direction with the group Joe Gibbs left behind, Campbell is eager to return to the field next season.
"I'm 85 to 90 percent," said Campbell, who has rehabbed at Redskins Park. "At the same time, you still have to continue to rehab until you get all the strength back. You don't want to go home for the break and not be fully recovered."
Campbell's first season as a starter ended when he was injured in the second quarter of a 24-16 victory over the Chicago Bears on Dec. 6. Collins -- who shined as the starter for the remainder of the season -- led the Redskins to all their points against the Bears. The 13-year veteran, primarily a backup throughout his career, also played a key role in three more victories that enabled Washington to clinch only its third playoff berth in the last 15 seasons.
Although Collins, whose contract ends after the season, struggled during a 35-14 first-round playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Redskins were expected to make a strong attempt to re-sign him to remain as Campbell's backup. But in a news conference before he resigned as coach and team president, Gibbs left open the idea of a quarterback competition between Campbell and Collins. And that occurred only days after associate head coach-offense Al Saunders assured Campbell that the Redskins were still his team.
With Gibbs's departure and a coaching search ongoing, many in the organization are awaiting answers on their status for next season. Regardless of whether the Redskins bring back Collins, Campbell believes "I'm the guy. Every year you come in, you never know what's going to happen. I've just got to be ready and continue to do the things I need to do to develop into one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL."
Campbell, who has only 20 career starts, was making strides before his season-ending injury, coaches said. He had a 77.6 passer rating and completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,700 yards with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
He had hoped to return if the Redskins advanced to the conference semifinals, and acknowledged that watching the team play without him "was tough. You prepare yourself all offseason, I was here most of my offseason last year, and to get 13 games in and you go out like that . . . [but] everything happens for a reason. It gave Todd an opportunity to showcase [himself] . . . and he's going to be a free agent this year. Our team rallied together."
Next season's team could be much different from the one that made an improbable march to the playoffs this season, especially if owner Daniel Snyder selects Gibbs's successor from outside the organization. Although many NFL executives and agents believe that assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams is the front-runner for the job, Seattle Seahawks assistant head coach Jim Mora impressed Snyder in talks last week, league sources said. Mora has since removed his name from consideration.
Williams, who has interviewed with management four times, has strong support of coaches and players. Promoting Williams would enable the team to maintain the stability and continuity that Snyder and Gibbs, serving as a consultant to the owner, have stressed, many in the organization said.
"The only thing you can do as a player right now is sit back and watch and see what happens," Campbell said. "Gregg is a great guy. He does a great job with the guys on the defensive side of the ball and they respect him a lot.
"We've all got a lot of respect for Gregg and everything he's [done] since he's been here. He's definitely a driving force on our football team. . . . With him getting interviewed four times, it's a positive."
Whether Williams or another candidate is hired, Campbell, who has been in eight offensive systems in nine years, would prefer to continue working with play-caller Saunders. He "is a great coach," Campbell said. "He does a good job with the things that we do. We're improving in a lot of areas and coming a long ways . . . as far as offensively. It's an opportunity for us to continue to grow.
"You always want the staff to try to stay stable as much as possible. You look at all the great quarterbacks, and all the guys that continue, year in and year out, to be successful, it's because they have their same guy with them throughout the process. . . . It's a growing process. The more that you're together the more you can continue to grow in that process and you're not starting over."