Commentary

Campbell probably better off elsewhere

Much-maligned quarterback is poor fit for the Redskins' West Coast offense

Originally Published: November 17, 2009
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Jason Campbell Hunter Martin/Getty ImagesFifth-year QB Jason Campbell has taken a lot of criticism in Washington, but his 2009 numbers (66.1 completion percentage, 87.9 passer rating) are solid.

Diplomacy personified, Jason Campbell nodded toward the Redskins' locker room following Sunday afternoon's upset victory at home over the Denver Broncos and noted: "It really makes you feel good to see guys … feeling that happy about something."

The Washington Redskins' fifth-year quarterback reveled in the postgame merriment, as well, at least vicariously, but he had to wonder in a private moment just how much more often he might be able to celebrate if he were in a different locker room and with a different team.

He would never admit it, of course, because Campbell isn't one to demonstrate even the slightest hint of discord. But know this: Campbell's next NFL team -- because there's pretty much no way he is going to play his full career in a Redskins' uniform -- could get a steal.

Underappreciated in Washington, Campbell could be in his final two-month stretch with the club that brought him into the NFL via the first round of the 2005 draft. If a lot of people are looking forward to the possibility that Campbell could be an unrestricted free agent next spring, he isn't part of the group.

At least not publicly.

Insisted Campbell on Sunday evening: "This is still my football team."

But a change of scenery and a change in offensive philosophies would be beneficial to Campbell. Of course, that could happen next season only if there is an extension to the NFL's collective bargaining agreement and Campbell qualifies for unrestricted free agency. Without a new labor deal, and saddled by an uncapped season in 2010, the former Auburn star would be only a restricted free agent, and the Redskins could retain his rights by simply making him a one-year qualifying offer. Because he has trade value, Washington probably would do so.

That scenario is too bad, because it would be very interesting to see what the talented Campbell could do with a new club and with an offense that better accentuates his strengths.

Starting-caliber quarterbacks such as Campbell almost never become available in the NFL. That said, 10 of the league's current starters (excluding Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, who were traded for each other in the first hour of the 2004 draft) began their professional careers with teams other than the ones for which they currently play. But half of those starters changed venues in trades. Rarely has a quarterback with Campbell's youth (27), experience (45 career starts) and skills become available in free agency.

If some quarterback-needy franchise were to sign Campbell as a free agent, or acquire him in a trade, it would get a player whose best football is still in front of him. And whose professional decorum in the spring, when the Redskins attempted twice to replace him via trade or the draft, was admirable. Washington tried to trade for Jay Cutler and tried to move up in the first round to grab Mark Sanchez.

Campbell wasn't particularly sharp against the Broncos in Week 10 (17-for-26, 193 yards), skipping the ball yards in front of intended receivers several times. But for all the criticism heaped on him, Campbell is having a pretty good year. His completion rate (66.1 percent), yards per attempt (7.36) and passer rating (87.9) are the best of his career. Coming into this season, Campbell had completed 59.7 percent of his attempts and averaged 6.41 yards per pass play. If he possesses a maddening weakness, it's in his inability to protect the football; he has fumbled 30 times (lost 12) since the beginning of the '07 season.

Under coach Jim Zorn, Campbell is stuck in a West Coast offense that is ill-suited to his strengths. His solid completion percentage aside, Campbell is not the classic "touch" passer. Instead, he's a quarterback with superb pocket stature (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and a strong right arm, and is much better throwing the ball vertically than he is completing 5-yard timing routes.

Maybe my assessment of Campbell is all wet and a new team wouldn't be a panacea, but give him a change of scenery and I'll take my chances. You think Steve Young would have developed into a Hall of Fame quarterback if he had not been traded from Tampa Bay to San Francisco? Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen, an influential confidant of Washington owner Dan Snyder, originated his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, not the Redskins, with whom he is most associated. Even the much-traveled Vinny Testaverde wasn't successful until he finally left the Bucs after six seasons.

Although Campbell would never admit it, upsetting the Broncos must have been particularly satisfying. In the spring, when Denver was dangling Cutler as trade bait, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels bypassed Campbell and chose the less physically talented Kyle Orton as his quarterback, completing a swap with the Chicago Bears.

Hopefully, the next coach with a chance to grab Campbell in a trade or free agency won't make the same mistake.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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