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McNabb vs. Campbell: Curiously equal, statistically speaking

Dan Steinberg
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; D2

Donovan McNabb got the ball at his 38-yard line Sunday, with more than two minutes on the clock and three timeouts in his pocket, needing perhaps 30 yards to be in field goal range. Instead, the Redskins went five-yard completion, sack, incompletion, incompletion.

Wait, I've got a great idea! Someone should compare McNabb and Jason Campbell! What, you'd rather read about Albert Haynesworth?

(Special note for print readers: this item was crafted with the express purpose of luring white-rose-wearing McNabbists and red-rose-wearing Campbellites to spew forth many dozens of angry comments and insults about each others' lineage, leading to boffo Web traffic and possible abdication. It doesn't quite have the same benefit on the printed page, though you're welcome to leave angry messages on my voice mail. Or, better yet, my editor's.)

Anyhow, as a longtime anti-Campbellite, I was happy enough to meticulously run through Campbell's performance in clutch situations last season, and to find him lacking.

Looking at situations where Campbell got the ball back in tied games or down by one score with less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter or in overtime, I found that Campbell was 44 for 86 for 584 yards and two touchdowns in 17 applicable games, not counting spikes and times he got the ball back with virtually no time left. He also had four interceptions, was sacked five times, and fumbled three times. That was good for a 61.4 rating. The Redskins were 4-13 in those games.

McNabb has already had seven chances at such drives with the Redskins, spread out over three games. The seven drives have produced two field goals, one missed field goal, one interception, two punts, one turnover on downs and one ghastly blog item filled with far too many numbers.

Still, McNabb's composite stats in those drives have been, I dare say, Campbellian: 14 for 22 for 135 yards, with an interception and three sacks. The QB rating? Try a nearly identical 61.7. The Redskins are 1-2 in these games, rallying to beat the Packers while failing to come up in the clutch against the Texans or the Colts. And I think we all know what the reaction would have been had No. 17 been responsible for that penultimate drive on Sunday.

Now, wiser local columnists than I would point both to McNabb's superior intagibles, and to the silliness of QB ratings. Mike Wise called him the "one indispensable player on the Washington Redskins roster." Tom Boswell wrote that Campbell "never had a day when he looked remotely as good as the spry 33-year-old McNabb in his second game for Shanahan."

Well, the blog Krem's Sports also compared McNabb through six games this season to Campbell through six games last season. Might as well add Campbell through six games in 2008, too. McNabb has a QB rating of 78.8 and a completion percentage of 58.1; Campbell's equivalent numbers were better both years. McNabb has five TDs and five interceptions; Campbell averaged six TDs and three interceptions through his first six games in the Maroon and Black Era. McNabb is 3-3, while Campbell was a combined 6-6.

Now I'll go ahead and quote blogger Matt Kremnitzer, who exactly nailed my feelings:

"McNabb simply brings things to the table that Campbell never will: better pocket presence, a quicker release, the ability to create plays, and being better at throwing deep passes," he wrote. "McNabb is unquestionably the better quarterback - not exactly a stunning statement. Still, the Redskins need McNabb to play much better than he has, meaning that he needs to do a better job of hitting open receivers and completing a higher percentage of his passes."

That seems like an accurate paragraph. Though possibly not confrontational enough for Web purposes.

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