They are the two people who dominate every preseason discussion about the Redskins. Their fates are seemingly intertwined. They both need and depend on each other, maybe more than any other QB and head coach duo in the NFL. We’re talking about Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell, of course. Campbell is on the cover of this weeks Sports Illustrated (I get my SI Thursday evenings. I’ll have more on the SI piece once I read it). Nationally, ESPN and now Sports Illustrated are talking about Campbell. Locally, ESPN 980, WJFK “the Fan”, The Washington Post, and The Washington Times can’t stop obsessing about Campbell (or for that matter, Zorn).
While I think Campbell handled all the trade talk this offseason with class, I do have serious questions about his leadership ability. For me, Campbell is way too calm and not nearly demonstrative enough. He gives the impression that he is in some sort of hypnosis, sleepwalking his way through a game. Think back to the Giants game opening night. The Skins are down 16-6 with 7 minutes to go. They need at least a FG and optimally, a TD. Yet, instead of getting everyone set, barking out orders, and showing a sense of urgency, Campbell looks non-chalant and acting like it’s the first quarter. The Campbell maniacs can’t understand why fans are so hard on Jason. Well, for me the biggest reason is his lack of passion.
This season is Campbell’s contract year. As everyone knows, Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato tried to trade him at least twice this past off-season. The first time was with the whole Jay Culter fiasco, where for once, Danny didn’t get what he wanted in the off-season. The second time was reportedly for the Jets pick in the draft, where they would have drafted Mark Sanchez. Plus, the Washington Post reported in March that the Redskins had talks with an unnamed team about trading Campbell. Campbell was drafted by the Redskins in 2005. He cost them a 2005 first round pick, a 2006 first round pick, and another fourth round pick that year. That’s 3 picks for one player. To me, that’s the reason Redskins fans expect so much from Jason. Because we gave up 3 picks for him.
It also didn’t help Campbell’s perception with fans when we saw Todd Collins step up for those last 3 games in 2007. That year, Collins went 3-0 down the stretch, beating the Giants in the Meadowlands, and Dallas here at home. Collins was and still is a journeyman QB. He isn’t going to make anyone forget about Peyton Manning. But we saw what happens that year when a QB gets rid of the ball. That’s another knock on Campbell. His critics say he locks into his receivers for too long and doesn’t go quickly enough to his second read.
Campbell’s supporters will tell you that he has played in many different offenses and all he needs is continuity. That’s probably true. But there are many QB’s in this league who can say the same thing. There is no question that Campbell is adequately mobile and has decent arm strength. He’s not Michael Vick 1999 VA Tech mobile but I think he’s good enough. Last year, Campbell threw for 13 TD’s, 6 Int’s, had an 84.3 QB rating (out of 148.3), and threw for 3245 yards. For his career, he’s thrown for 7245 yards. Like most of the offense, Campbell’s season was a tale of 2 halves. For the first 5 games, he had 0 turnovers. He had no interceptions for his first 8 games. Then…..came……..the “home” game against Pittsburgh. He spent most of that time flat on his back. He threw 2 picks, passed for a whopping 5 yards, and a 49.2 rating. Game 14 against Baltimore wasn’t that much better. He threw for 1 TD and 2 INT’s. In the toughest division in football, I think it’s fair to say that Jason is the worst of the 4 teams starting QB’s. Then again, there was a time not too long ago when Giants fans wanted to trade Eli. So who knows if Jason blossoms with some continuity with Zorn? Now having dealt with Campbell, let’s move onto Zorn…….
Like Campbell, Zorn wasn’t the first choice for this owner either. Not for head coach anyway. Remember, he was first hired as offensive coordinator, then promoted to head coach after at least 3 coaches turned down Snyder. While we don’t know how far each of these interviews went, the following is a list of people Snyder at least considered for the job before Zorn. Steve Spagnuolo, Jim Fassel, Jim Schwartz, Steve Mariucci, Ron Meeks, Jim Mora, and supposedly Pete Carroll. Zorn is the 6th head coach in the history of the Dan Snyder era. Unless he gets this team to the playoffs, Snyder will probably be looking for a 7th come next January.
A big problem for Zorn is who else is out on the market looking for work next January. There are at least 5 future Hall of Fame head coaches with Super Bowl rings who are sitting out this year. That list includes Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren, and Tony Dungy. If we want to get really creative, Bill Parcells has an out clause in his contract as GM of the Dolphins. And who knows if Brian Billick may get tired of the Fox Broadcasting booth? Zorn appears to be a likeable guy. In public appearances, he is funny, honest, and has his quirks (“hip hip hooray”, “stay even”). He went 8-8 last year, after starting out 6-2. While hardly an embarassment, he is also not flashy or sexy enough of a name for Dan Snyder. He has also had issues last season and in the offseason with Snyder’s favorite player, Clinton Portis.
I hate to say it but I have a feeling neither Zorn or Campbell is back next year. We are looking at a total rebuilding job after this year.