By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 14, 2008
Back at work the other day after the Washington Redskins' bye week, quarterback Jason Campbell sounded upbeat between meetings at Redskins Park.
"The time off was good, real good," Campbell said. "But we've still got a lot we want to accomplish, there's a lot still ahead of us, and we've got to finish the right way."
The same could be said about Campbell himself. He impressed during the team's first nine games in only his second full season as a starter, playing a major role as Washington has remained in contention for a postseason berth. Coaches and players said Campbell performed well in directing the offense under Jim Zorn, the team's first-year head coach and play-caller, and now the Redskins look to Campbell to help guide them to the playoffs with seven games remaining.
If the Redskins attain that goal with Campbell leading the way, owner Daniel Snyder might reward him with a lucrative contract extension.
The stretch run for the Redskins (6-3) begins against the Dallas Cowboys (5-4) on Sunday night at FedEx Field, and the right person is leading them to the finish, many players said yesterday after practice.
"No doubt about it, Jason has played great, and he's a big part of what we've done so far," Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels said of Campbell, the 25th overall pick in the 2005 draft. "When you talk about the guys who have really stepped up their games to put us in a good position, you have to have Jason in there. I think we all knew what Jason could do in this game, but you still have to go out and prove it. He's definitely doing that."
Campbell has completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 1,960 yards and ranks seventh in the league with a personal-best 92.4 passer rating. He has made significant strides in committing fewer turnovers than he did through Washington's first nine games last season, throwing eight touchdown passes and only two interceptions.
In the Redskins' final game before their bye week, a 23-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 3, Campbell threw his first interception of the season in the third quarter, ending Washington's NFL-record streak of pass attempts without an interception at 379.
The interception was Campbell's first in 271 attempts, which established a team record. He was picked off a second time on Washington's final offensive play.
Campbell has fumbled three times, resulting in one turnover. During his 2007 season, which was cut short because of a dislocated kneecap, opponents recovered eight of his 13 fumbles.
Campbell's steady approach has helped strengthen his relationship with Zorn.
Seattle Seahawks Coach Mike Holmgren, among Zorn's coaching mentors, "always used to say, 'To be able to call plays, you have to be able to trust the QB is going to do what you've planned on with the call.' You just can't make up things," Zorn said. "And I think that's what Jason has been fighting to do the whole time.
"I've coached the drill work on avoiding [the pass rush] and scrambling and things like that, but Jason has to go out and decide that he's going to run the play that was called. As a coach, you can call any play that you want. But if you can't trust the guy, then you get mixed feelings about calling a play. You call scared. You call the game scared, and it's tough to play that way."
Campbell has performed at his best late in games with outcomes in question: He has a 100.5 passer rating in fourth quarters and has teamed with receivers on many timely plays that provided the difference in Redskins victories.
"Man, having a quarterback who can make plays, keep the game close and manage the game, that's very important because this is quarterback league," defensive lineman Demetric Evans said. "Every team that has a good quarterback has a chance to win the [Super Bowl]. The teams that don't have good quarterbacks, they struggle, and I'm just glad we have a good one."
Generally, teams move quickly to extend the contracts of standout young quarterbacks because of the importance of the position. Campbell, who will turn 27 on Dec. 31, has two years remaining on his rookie contract. Because of escalator clauses, he has a base salary of $1,235,000 this season. Late last month, the Green Bay Packers rewarded quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had not started a game in the NFL until this season, with a six-year, $65 million contract extension that reportedly guarantees him at least $20 million.
"That was great for Rodgers," Campbell said of a fellow first-round pick in the 2005 draft. "It showed that the Packers' organization is totally behind him.
"They believe he's a guy they can win with in the future and they have all the confidence in him. They just gave it to him so he can relax and focus on ball, just play and not feel pressure to make so many great plays, or do so many great things, in order to get that type of contract. He just has to go out there and be the quarterback. As a young quarterback, it's great to have that pressure taken off of you."
As of yesterday, the Redskins, who do not comment on contracts, had not initiated extension talks with Campbell's agent, Joel Segal.
Campbell said he would prefer to remain with Washington his entire career, and he hopes that Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, the team's executive vice president of football operations, are confident he is a good long-term fit, but "I can't worry about what other young quarterbacks out there are getting from their teams, or even try to compare my situation with other guys, because my whole focus right now is just about team goals.
"I'm always going to put the team, the team's success, ahead of anything with me. We've won some big games this year, and that's great, but my goal is to try to take us to the playoffs. If we keep winning, going out and playing like we're supposed to and get into these playoffs, everything will take care of itself. I'm a big believer in you get what you deserve when it's supposed to be given to you."