Stir up the Campbell: Jason take the reins for Redskins

Updated: November 14, 2006, 3:23 PM ET
Associated Press

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 crazy."

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 game."

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 secondary.

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 couldn't.

"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 team.

"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 right direction."

And now it's Campbell's turn.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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