Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Stir up the Campbell: Jason take the reins for Redskins
ASHBURN, Va. -- Within a few hours of his big promotion,
Jason Campbell had received congratulations and advice from Donovan
McNabb, Steve McNair and Charlie Frye.
For that matter, it seemed everyone wanted a word with the new
Washington Redskins starting quarterback.
"I had to cut my phone off," Campbell said. "It was getting
Campbell arrived for work a bit calmer Tuesday, having slept on
the news that he has replaced Mark Brunell and will start Sunday's
game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Campbell said he left his
Monday meeting with coach Joe Gibbs feeling as if he were "winning
the lottery," so he was happy to hear from other quarterbacks who
had experienced the same.
"They just told me to take the approach of `Go out there, be
yourself," Campbell said. "'Just take every play one play at a
time. If you make a mistake, keep your head up high and keep
working hard, because you are going to get better from game to
But there are sure to be some early growing pains for a
quarterback who hasn't taken a snap in a competitive game since
undefeated Auburn's victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl in
January 2005. The move from 36-year-old Brunell to 24-year-old
Campbell signifies that the Redskins (3-6) are willing to risk the
unknown to salvage something from their season -- and to see what
Campbell can give them in years to come.
"I thought we really needed a spark," guard Randy Thomas said.
"At 3-6, a certain move like this hopefully will get guys
thinking, `This is a new beginning. This is something we can build
on, and hopefully this can bring greatness."
The Redskins are counting on Campbell, the No. 25 overall pick
last year, to be the long-term solution at a position that hasn't
been stable since Gibbs' first tenure ended in 1992. Campbell will
become the 17th quarterback to start for the Redskins in 14
seasons; Gus Frerotte (1996) and Brad Johnson (1999) were the only
ones to make it through an entire season with the No. 1 job intact.
In announcing the switch, Gibbs said Brunell play wasn't the
sole reason for the Redskins' ills, and no one will dispute the
coach on that point. For Campbell to correct the team's biggest
problem, he would also have to play defensive back and stop the big
gainers that opposing quarterbacks consistently completed against
The Redskins have already lost games by 17, 16, 14 and 24 points
-- surpassing the number of double-digits defeats in Gibbs' 6-10
comeback season in 2004. In the last five games, the number of
turnovers forced by the defense equals the number of points scored
by the offense in the third quarter: zero.
A major criticism of Brunell is that he wasn't able to get the
ball downfield, but fullback Rock Cartwright said Campbell will
have the same predicament if the blocking doesn't improve.
"There's been opportunities when Mark was probably going to
complete a deep pass if we give him better pass protection up
front," Cartwright said. "The quarterback a lot of the times
takes too much of the blame when you're losing and gets too much of
the credit when you're winning. I just feel sorry for Mark because
of that. Everybody could play better."
Campbell said he had some "mixed emotions" because Brunell has
been his mentor, but the young quarterback knows his stronger arm
and greater mobility will give him a chance to do things Brunell
"I think that I can help stretch the field with those downfield
throws," Campbell said.
Campbell realizes that his life has changed forever and that the
patience he's had to teach himself over the past year and a half
will have to pay off in different ways. After talking to reporters
in the parking lot, he walked into Redskins Park and was briefed on
his media obligations for the rest of the week.
For those not used to hearing his voice, he is soft-spoken and
carries himself with a remarkable even-keeled perspective for
someone his age. He also has let's-be-real moments of candor, when
he'll dismiss organizational spin and just say what's obvious.
An example of that came Monday, when Campbell was discussing why
Gibbs had taken so long to bench Brunell. Campbell said what Gibbs
wouldn't say -- that the coach thought this would be a Super Bowl
"I think it was a situation in which the coaches and Coach
Gibbs are at the standpoint of their life and their coaching career
that they are trying to win the whole thing right now," Campbell
said. "I think that was the key, and a guy like Mark, a veteran
who has been to the AFC championship and a couple of Pro Bowls,
they feel like he is a guy who could get things jump-started in the
And now it's Campbell's turn.