A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Slumping Redskins Name Jason Campbell New Starting QB
“Anything less than the Super Bowl would be a disappointment.”
–Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell, during the preseason.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — When the Washington Redskins began the season, no one, not their Hall-of-Fame head coach, slew of highly paid free agents, over-stocked coaching staff or rabid fan base could foresee a 3-6 record and a last place standing in their division at just past the halfway point of the season.
But with the playoff possibilities all but gone, the team finally made the move that fans have been clamoring for for weeks, by replacing veteran starting quarterback Mark Brunell with second year man Jason Campbell.
Brunell’s stats are slightly above average (he is currently the 10th rated passer in the league), so the team’s lackluster offensive performance isn’t all Brunell’s fault.
But the time is right to make this change, and Gibbs, whose fondness for Brunell is widely known, finally pulled the trigger. Campbell, who’s been holding a clipboard for almost two years, seemed surprised by the news.
“Anytime someone calls you into the office, it’s just like when the principal calls you into the office. You kind of get the jitters, because you don’t know what to expect. And then, once I got in there and sat down with him and talked about the whole situation, there was a lot of excitement,” said Campbell, who will start for the Redskins on Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Head coach Joe Gibbs made the announcement on Tuesday, after the Redskins turned in one of their worst performances of the season, a 27-3 beat down on Sunday at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles.
By going to the younger, stronger-armed and far more mobile Campbell, the Redskins immediately have a few more options.
“It’s exciting to have the opportunity to play in this league, and be the starter for the Washington Redskins, but at the same time, part of you feels kind of down a little bit for your mentor, Mark,” Campbell said.
In his second season with the Redskins, Campbell has been listed as the third quarterback on the Redskins depth chart for every game of his career, with Todd Collins serving as Brunell’s backup.
Collins came along for the ride when Redskins owner Dan Snyder brought in Al Saunders from the Kansas City Chiefs to be the team’s Associate Head Coach-Offense, chief cook and play caller.
Saunders supposedly brought with him a 700- page playbook, and a complex offensive scheme that Collins already knows. But nether Collins nor Campbell has seen a moment of action on the field during the regular season, not even in garbage time.
Gibbs has long made his preference for Brunell clear, and seemed almost pained at having to bench Brunell in favor of Campbell.
“It was a tough decision to make. I talked to Mark, who was an absolute gentleman about it. He understands. I’m sure he does not agree with it, and it was the same for Todd. I talked to all three guys and explained the decision I felt like I should make, and basically I said that we’re going to give Jason his opportunity and see if we can be more productive, and see if we can get some answers,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs was right; Brunell was disappointed.
“Football is a great game, but it’s a horrible business,” Brunell said of the move.
Teams looking for film on Campbell, a first round pick out of Auburn, will have to go back to his college days, where he went 13-0 in his senior season, and was voted MVP of both the Sugar and the Music City Bowl games.
Campbell hasn’t even gotten any first team snaps during practice, until this week. “I’m getting more and more comfortable with them, and they’re getting more comfortable with me,” Campbell said of his teammates.
“It’s all about trying to build chemistry together. You can know everything that you need to know, but you have to build that chemistry together.”
One player he won’t be building chemistry with, unfortunately, is star running back Clinton Portis, who has been placed on injured reserve, and will miss the remainder of the season.
Portis, already nursing a torn labrum in his left shoulder which he injured in the first preseason game, broke a bone in his right hand during the game against the Eagles.
Minus Portis, Ladell Betts and the previously inactive T.J. Duckett will handle the running back duties.
With seven games remaining in the season, including two against their division rival Giants and Eagles, the road ahead isn’t an easy one. In fact, there isn’t a bad team left on the Redskins schedule during those final seven weeks.
And for some fans in this town, sitting down the veteran and putting in the kid signals that it’s time to start thinking about next season. But the true Redskins faithful still haven’t given up hope.
Kevin Brown, a lifelong Redskins fan who’s been tailgating at home games for the past 12 years, still believes in Burgundy and Gold miracles.
“This move should have been made sooner. But if Jason can get us through these next seven weeks, maybe we can back door our way into the playoffs,” Brown said with a smile, adding that there are two things that real Redskins fans never do.
“We never boo, and we never give up.”