Campbell Is Pressured From Every Angle
QB: 'I'm Getting All of the Blame'
Wednesday, December 3, 2008; Page E01
With the Washington Redskins having the day off, quarterback Jason Campbell took a rare break from football yesterday. Instead of reviewing game film or going over the playbook, he decided to just relax at his house and take his mind off the game.
A once-promising season is threatening to slip away, with the Redskins having lost three of their last four games. And as is typical in the unforgiving world of the NFL, criticism of the team's quarterback is intensifying with each loss.
Frustration among fans -- not to mention sports radio and television pundits -- boiled over after Sunday's 23-7 loss to the New York Giants. Callers filled talk radio programs with attacks on Campbell's performance, with many saying he should be benched in favor of backup Todd Collins, who led the Redskins' late, four-game winning streak that resulted in a playoff berth last season after Campbell was lost to injury.
There is no quarterback controversy in the Redskins' locker room, and Coach Jim Zorn reaffirmed Monday that Campbell remains the team's starter. Even so, the soft-spoken Campbell, who will turn 27 on Dec. 31, is unaccustomed to this level of scrutiny. In only his second full season as a starter, the native of tiny Taylorsville, Miss., is shouldering the burden of a franchise still trying to recapture the Super Bowl-winning success it enjoyed during the 1980s and early 1990s.
"People just don't understand," Campbell said with a tired voice as he leaned against a wall near the locker room at Redskins Park on Monday. "Right now, I'm getting all of the blame and, yeah, it's tough. As the quarterback, you know you're going to get too much of the credit when the team wins and too much when you lose. People are basically throwing me under the bus right now, and here I am still trying to get established in this league.
"But I'll accept all the blame, because the same ones who are riding me right now were the same people [earlier] this year that were saying something a whole lot different. I'm smart enough to know that it's not all on me."
Cold in November
Named the Redskins' starter midway through the 2006 season under former coach Joe Gibbs, Campbell was sidelined during Washington's run to the playoffs in 2007 because of a dislocated kneecap. The team re-signed Collins, 37, in the offseason. But Campbell has worked closely with Zorn, who came to Washington from the Seattle Seahawks with a reputation as a good teacher of young quarterbacks.
The relationship appeared to be paying off as Washington opened 4-1, and the stellar play of Campbell was pointed to as one of the reasons behind the team's strong start.
The Redskins were 6-2 at the midpoint of their schedule and appeared to be on track to qualify for the playoffs in consecutive seasons for only the second time since the 1991-92 seasons. Then came November and losses to Pittsburgh, Dallas and the Giants, with a lone victory against the lowly Seahawks. The Redskins, now 7-5, would not qualify for the playoffs if they began today.
The Redskins' performance, particularly a lack of scoring by the offense, has stirred more criticism of Campbell, who acknowledged this week that "you can't help but hear it when it's out there like it is now."
"You try not to listen to it, try to just stay away from all the negativity, but it's all over the place," he said. "But I know who I am and how hard I work. You always have to remember that. You can't let outside people get you down when they really don't know what's going on."