ATLANTA, SEPT. 18 -- Surely, things can only improve for Marion Campbell, whose second opportunity as Atlanta Falcons head coach has commenced all too similarly to the way the first one ended 11 years ago.
The Falcons' 48-10 embarrassment at Tampa Bay last Sunday was the franchise's worst since a 59-0 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in 1976. The only reason Campbell might not remember that one too vividly is because his firing came eight weeks before.
After the Tampa Bay debacle, Campbell announced, "If you can't get mad after something like this, then I don't know what it's going to take to get you mad."
Campbell seethed Sunday night because the defense he stabilized in 1986 during a year as Falcons defensive coordinator had turned porous against Tampa Bay. Although offense has been virtually left in the hands of coordinator Rod Dowhower and aides, Campbell announced that quarterback Dave Archer would be replaced against the Redskins by backup Scott Campbell. Archer was ineffective the entire preseason and eight for 22 for 94 yards in Tampa.
Campbell said, "I thought about it all night. I agonized over it. I looked at every possible thing and it pointed to Scott Campbell."
Campbell went through a testy training camp at quarterback. First, No. 1 pick Chris Miller hasn't appeared because his agent, Mike Blatt of Stockton, Calif., is dissatisfied with a $1.9 million, four-year contract offer. Secondly, Archer spent the preseason trying to get untracked and failing. The only quarterback performing worse was Turk Schonert, who was cut.
The coach's other offensive plan involved implementation of the two-back offense to make the Falcons something more than Gerald Riggs following the seat of guard Bill Fralic's pants into December. But the slow progress of No. 2 pick Kenny Flowers, the starting halfback in the two-back, has put such plans on hold.
Campbell's defense, which last year jumped from 28th in points allowed to sixth in the NFL, has compounded the problems. When it sags, the Falcons will be lost until they develop a passing game to worry an opponent.
"I know we're going to bounce back from this," Marion Campbell said. "We all know we're a better football team than we showed last week."