Thursday, November 16, 2006
QB shuffle makes for bustling week for Washington Redskins
ASHBURN, Va. -- Jason Campbell has been swamped with
attention, and even his father held a teleconference with
Mark Brunell feels as if he has "a big target" on his chest.
Al Saunders is modifying the offense. Joe Gibbs just looks
It's been quite a week for the Washington Redskins.
"The first day it feels different because you are
overwhelmed," said Campbell, describing for the umpteenth time his
reaction to becoming the starting quarterback. "You are not sure
how to react or what to do."
Campbell, who on Sunday at Tampa Bay will take his first snap in
an NFL regular-season game, spoke while surrounded by a swarm of
reporters next to the locker room, smiling at questions that probed
for any new morsel of detail about the 2005 first-round draft pick.
This used to be Brunell's exclusive domain, but the 14-year
veteran instead had to deal with the sting of demotion in a more
"I feel like I have a big target on my chest right now," said
Brunell, benched after last week's 27-3 loss at Philadelphia. "But
I'm not saying that I've been made the scapegoat, that is not the
case at all. We're 3-6, and if the offense isn't productive, then
naturally the person that gets the blame is the quarterback. That
is this business, and whether it's fair or not, that's the way it
is. ... Football is a great game, but it's a horrible business."
Everyone, from Campbell to Campbell's father to other players
and coaches has expressed sympathy for Brunell. They point out he's
completed 62 percent of his passes, thrown only four interceptions
and has worked at times under a heavy pass rush. But the numbers
also show that Brunell didn't complete passes downfield and
couldn't produce enough points or wins.
"We were shocked," said Larry Campbell, asked for a reaction
to his son's promotion when reached at his home in Mississippi.
"At the same time, my heart goes out to Mark, too."
Brunell said this setback is different from two years ago, when
Gibbs sat him in favor of Patrick Ramsey after nine games of the
2004 season. This time, Brunell said, he felt "pretty good" about
how he played. More to the point, at age 36, he knows his career
could be coming to an imminent close -- even if he won't say it out
"My future isn't important right now," said Brunell, whose
salary is scheduled to balloon to $5.2 million next season.
"What's important is my role, to be ready if asked to go in. The
future, those things will be thought about after the season."
Brunell, at least, got a chance to play this year. Todd Collins
got demoted from No. 2 to No. 3 in this week's shuffle without
taking a snap. Collins was supposed to be veteran insurance during
the march to the playoffs, but that's a plan that never saw the
light of day.
"Definitely disappointed, but not entirely surprised," Collins
said. "You've got the young guy, they've got a lot invested in
him. They have great hopes. You kind of saw it coming, if a change
was going to be made."
Collins, who is 35 and hasn't started a game since 1997, has a
future as murky as Brunell's.
"You've still got seven weeks to go," Collins said. "You
never know what's going to happen, but it enters your mind
An obvious question this week has been how much the offense will
change now that it's being run by a younger, more mobile
quarterback with a stronger arm. Assistant coach Saunders, who
calls the plays, said he'll "go in a different direction" with
parts of the game plan. But the coach also said he has yet to fully
implement the schemes that worked so well for him in Kansas City.
"We've not tapped into a lot of things," Saunders said. "It's
not the quarterback; it's the other 10 players. It's the whole
system that has to be developed at a higher level before we can go
to the next step."
As if the quarterback change weren't enough, the Redskins are
dealing with running back Clinton Portis being out for the season
with a broken hand.
The changes have broken the monotony of a losing season, and
players are outwardly optimistic the switch to Campbell will bring
a turnabout in fortune.
"He's really taken control, and I think he's going to be a good
leader for us," right tackle Jon Jansen said. "What we're trying
to look for is any kind of spark, and hopefully he creates a spark
The exception is Gibbs, whose demeanor would indicate that
Brunell-to-Campbell is the worst thing that's ever happened in
professional football. The Hall of Fame coach has expressed no
enthusiasm for his own decision, mainly because he's so fond of
"We've been through a lot of tough things together," Gibbs
said. "We went through the good times, and we went through some
bumps in the road. It's a tough thing to go through."<