Can Campbell Get It Done? Straight Talk From Those Who Did
Tired of listening to everyone play amateur analyst and psychologist with Jason Campbell, I finally went to people whose opinion carried weight, people who have been there and done that in the burgundy and gold.
Heath Shuler, Danny Wuerffel and Gus Frerotte. (What? They started.)
Okay, honest. I settled on three accomplished players to talk about what they believe Campbell has to do in order to lead this franchise in 2009 and beyond, and, later, another guy trying to get there.
Without further adieu: Sonny Jurgensen, Joe Theismann and Mark Rypien, one Hall of Famer and two quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls. Enough said, no?
Sonny: "It's pretty simple. Jason has got to lead. He's got to be the leader and execute the offense. That's all he has to do. Oh, and he's got to listen to the coach. But he can't pay attention to what people are saying."
Joe: "I think he has to be consistent in his play. By the way, I feel like I've been the only [one] here beating his drum. No one else is giving him a chance. One thing people lose sight of is, he's the most dependent guy on the field. If runners don't block, if the defense doesn't stop people, how are you supposed to do your job? You can't evaluate Jason until all those things happen consistently."
Mark: "Number one, he's got to win. And then he's got to overcome all the different systems already in his brain and start to really grasp the West Coast offense. And honestly, I don't know if he can. I'm really worried that the West Coast offense is not right for Jason Campbell. It takes a certain type of player or athlete -- you've seen them in San Francisco, Seattle and Green Bay -- to make that work. I think if Jim Zorn is there for three or four years, you'll start to see some real results. And I think Jason is probably doing his best, and it's probably very frustrating. But I'm not convinced he's cut out for that offense yet."
Rypien was used to balance out Jurgensen and Theismann, who, like me, believe Campbell has what it takes to be Washington's franchise quarterback for the next five-plus years. To be clear, Rypien never said Campbell couldn't become that guy. But he expressed the kind of reservations a lot of fickle people in this town have about Campbell, the same fickle people who swore by his talent eight games into last season, before the bottom fell out of the season.
Look, he wasn't as bad and unsuited for the position as some people's memory.
I'm not a huge stat guy when it comes to evaluating production, but after all the anti-Campbell rhetoric in the preseason I had to take a second glance at these numbers gleaned from the "Football Outsiders 2009 Almanac."
When Campbell had time to set up and throw, he connected on 85.7 percent of his passes, good for seventh in the league in that category. The almanac said Campbell was knocked down, hit or sacked a combined 88 times, or 16.2 percent of the time, when he dropped back to pass last season -- more than all but three other quarterbacks. Jay Cutler's offensive line in Denver, meanwhile, let him go down a scant 25 times all of last season.
How about the fact Campbell had more passes dropped than any other starting quarterback last season? Thirty-nine drops! His best wide receivers, Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El, combined to let 21 passes thrown to them by Campbell slip through their hands last season.