By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 24, 2010; 1:06 AM
It took two preseason games for Jason Campbell to stop feeling like the deposed quarterback of the Washington Redskins and to begin feeling like the rightful quarterback of the Oakland Raiders.
"It was weird when I first got here," Campbell said late Saturday night, standing in a rapidly emptying visitor's locker room at Soldier Field after he made his second preseason start for the Raiders. "But as months have gone by, it's kind of like getting farther away now. Last week, the first time being in a different uniform playing a game just felt different. But this week, it was like, 'Okay, you got that first game out of the way. Now let's turn to the second game.' "
Campbell's five-year tenure with the Redskins was all about change. He endured new head coaches, offensive coordinators and offensive systems. When the Redskins - under another new coach, Mike Shanahan, and a new general manager, Bruce Allen - stopped believing that the former first-round draft choice was the answer for them at quarterback, the biggest change of all came when Campbell was traded to the Raiders in April.
The Redskins' new regime had traded for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, making Campbell's departure inevitable.
"I look back on it just saying it prepared me for this part of my career," Campbell said Saturday of his Redskins tenure. "I went through a lot of things there, a lot of changes. . .Playing the quarterback position, you get blamed for a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff was just way too much, though."
Former Redskins coach Jim Zorn said fans and others may have assigned Campbell more blame than he deserved. Zorn, who had a record of 12-20 in two seasons as the team's head coach, said the Redskins could have won with Campbell at quarterback if the rest of the club had been functioning smoothly.
"He was progressing as well," Zorn said. "Think about the pressure that he was under with all the criticism. He had been there longer than I was. And that was part of the issue. People were tired of seeing him, right? But we could have pushed through with him. We couldn't push through with some of the injuries we had."
Zorn, now the quarterbacks coach of the Baltimore Ravens, said he expects Campbell to succeed in Oakland if the Raiders' offensive line performs well.
"Watch him," Zorn said at the Ravens' training camp earlier this month. "If they protect him and they give him an opportunity to move the chains and move the ball and not have to go to drastic schemes to protect him, absolutely he's going to be fine.
"Now, his big growth has got to continue to be decision-making. . . He does have a lot of talent. . .He's learned a lot in a couple years."
Zorn inherited Campbell from his predecessor, Joe Gibbs, who drafted Campbell in 2005. The Redskins went to the playoffs twice in Gibbs's second go-around as coach, but neither time was with Campbell at quarterback. Once was with Mark Brunell in the 2005 season, a year before Campbell took over as the starter. The other came when backup Todd Collins took over for an injured Campbell and led a late push to the playoffs in the 2007 season.
Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said it "remains to be seen" if Campbell can be a winning NFL quarterback.
"Do we really know how good he is or how good he could be? I don't think we do," Theismann said by telephone last week. "There have been so many variables in his career with the constant changes in coaches, systems, personnel, everything. He's a quiet guy. He needs to be assertive. But I do believe he has a chance. Up until now, he never really had a chance. So many things were stacked against him."
Theismann said he believes that Campbell has a legitimate opportunity to thrive in Oakland because the Raiders favor the kind of down-the-field passing game in which Campbell might excel.
"He's in a system that's complementary to his style of play," Theismann said. "And anything has to be an improvement over the protection he got from his offensive line last year in Washington. The fact is, he'll be upright more often, and that will give him a chance to succeed."
The Raiders have gone seven straight seasons with at least 11 losses. But owner Al Davis has raised expectations for his 28-year-old quarterback. Davis said in a recent radio interview that Campbell reminds him of Jim Plunkett, who won two Super Bowls with the franchise. Davis also said he doesn't expect Campbell to let him down.
The Raiders have won both their preseason games, and Campbell showed some positive signs in Saturday's 32-17 triumph over the Bears. He scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak to cap a crisp opening drive, and zipped some throws to receivers en route to amassing 170 passing yards in one half of work. But Campbell also made mistakes. He threw an interception on one pass when an accurate throw might have produced a touchdown, and was stripped of the ball for a fumble on a sack by Bears defensive end Julius Peppers.
"I'm pleased with his adjustment to the offense," Raiders Coach Tom Cable said after the game. "I think he was better [Saturday] than he was last week. I thought there were some times that he was under heavy duress. He didn't have time maybe to do some things when there were openings."
Said Campbell: "This game was a lot more comfortable. The last game, I had a couple jitters before the game started, the first time with a new team. But this game, I was just glad to be out there playing football."
During the offseason, the Raiders hired Hue Jackson, a former Redskins offensive coordinator under Steve Spurrier, as their top offensive coach. That means another full slate of changes for Campbell, who wasn't with the Redskins when Jackson was there. But he should be accustomed to that by now.
"I don't know if it ever gets easier," Campbell said. "But this is probably one of the most comfortable ones to be a part of because you come to a team where you're accepted. The team is young and hungry. Guys want to win, and you're able to [show] your leadership. . . It's a fresh start."