ASHBURN, Va. -- Even though there isn't a glimmer of a quarterback controversy in Washington, I'll pose the question: If Todd Collins outplays Jason Campbell in the team's five exhibition games, any chance he wins back a job that was his at the end of last season?
|Todd Collins and Jason Campbell know their roles as camp gets under way. (Getty Images)|
I guess that settles it. Campbell is the starter, Collins is the backup and the only questions out there are for some dimwit to ask.
So let me be that dimwit: Why not leave the competition open and let the better man win?
I mean, when the Redskins went to the playoffs last year it was with Collins, not Campbell. When they won their final four regular-season games -- their longest winning streak since closing the 2005 season with five straight -- it was with Collins, not Campbell.
Yes, Collins is considerably older, is a career No. 2 and doesn't have Campbell's skill set. I also know Campbell played well last season until he bowed out with a dislocated left knee, opening the door for Collins.
But look what Collins accomplished. He threw five touchdowns and no interceptions. He beat the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, two playoff teams. He produced a passer rating of 106.4 which, if he had enough snaps to qualify, would have made him second only to New England's Tom Brady.
Best of all, he didn't lose until the playoffs.
So why isn't he in the conversation when it turns to starting quarterbacks? Answer: Because he isn't. Simple as that.
|Out of Nowhere Man|
|Rookie OL Chad Rinehart could be invaluable as a backup on the offensive line. Rinehart, whom the Redskins took in the third round, can play left guard or left tackle -- and with Chris Samuels recovering from elbow surgery and Pete Kendall turning 35 the Redskins can't afford to take chances at either position. Rinhart is tough, has what assistant Joe Bugel called "good football intelligence" and is not easily intimidated. "He has really come a long way in camp," said Bugel."He's a real plus for us."|
|Who is your Out of Nowhere Man?|
The last thing Zorn figured he needed as a first-year head coach was turmoil at the game's most important position. So shortly after taking over for Joe Gibbs, he moved to defuse any potential quarterback controversy. He notified Campbell he was his starter. He told Collins he was the backup. And he made it clear to both the topic was nonnegotiable.
"He had earned the starting position," Zorn said of Campbell, "and I looked at like: Why had he earned it? And you can see it on video.
"I've been a backup, too, and when Todd Collins came in from the bench he's such an outstanding pro that he executed his game, if you will, like he should. But, to me, he came in, substituted and now the starter is back.
"I didn't want a controversy coming in; I don't want to play a manipulation game when I already know."
If you have a conviction about a guy you act on it, and Zorn makes it abundantly clear he is sold on Campbell. Watching practice you can see why. Campbell looks confident. He moves easily. He has a strong arm. And he can be accurate.
|One man vs. One fan|
SamoaSkinz : "If JC struggles to master the new offense then maybe we go 7-9. If JC performs well ... then 10-6 is very possible."
But that's how the scouting report of his first three years reads. He has shown flashes of the potential that made him the 25th pick of the 2005 draft, but he's also 8-12 in the games he started.
And maybe, just maybe, that's why the Redskins are so determined to short-circuit a quarterback controversy before it occurs. Campbell is learning his third offense in four years, and the club can't afford to have him be afraid to fail.
So it won't let him. It provides a safety net and tells him he's the starter, no matter what.
"Is he ready?" Zorn asked. "He's very ready in some ways, and he's not as ready as Todd would be in other ways. But that's the difference in a young quarterback and a veteran quarterback on the same team.
"We had the exact same thing in Seattle with Trent Dilfer. Trent Dilfer was an outstanding quarterback who took over for Matt (Hasselbeck). But when he tore his Achilles, Matt returned and never looked back."
Campbell insists he'll never look back, either, though he knows there are potential hazards ahead. Three of the Redskins' first five games are against division opponents, and all three are on the road. If Washington and/or Campbell stumble, get ready to hear from the Todd Collins Fan Club.
"You already know that, in this position, if you make one mistake you're going to hear that," said Campbell. "But I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to play ball.
"I'm going to do what I can do best and go out there to lead the team and not prove (I'm) a good quarterback. You know inside you're a good quarterback, so (my thinking is): Just go out there and let it go.
Positives: Campbell threw 417 passes last year, but he can expect an increase playing in the West Coast offense. He also should remain around his 60 percent completion percentage. Campbell has plenty of talent around him in Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and Fred Davis. He is a decent runner and had one rushing touchdown last year.
Negatives: Collins led the Redskins to the playoffs after Campbell got hurt. He looked bad at times in 2007 with five games with less than 200 yards passing and five games with no touchdowns.
Outlook: Campbell is a solid No. 2 Fantasy option. He's a good quarterback to pair with an entrenched starter like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo or Drew Brees. If Campbell plays well, then you can trade him, and he will start to excel once he grasps his new system. Look for an improved year from Campbell in 2008 and consider him a solid sleeper.
-- Jamey Eisenberg
RB: Clinton Portis (12th overall)
QB: Jason Campbell (129th overall)
WR: Santana Moss (88th overall)
TE: Chris Cooley (58th overall)
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"I did a lot of positive things last year. We had a lot of close games that we could've won, and I had outstanding games. But you don't get the recognition for it because at the end of the day it's all about a win."
Which brings us back to Collins. At the end of the day he was undefeated down the stretch, losing in Seattle after Shaun Suisham's missed field goal gave the Seahawks an opening they could exploit.
But people close to the organization insist there were other factors at work then other than the play of Collins -- citing the late-season improvements in Santana Moss and Clinton Portis and the emotional tidal wave that followed Sean Taylor's death.
More important, they insist Campbell can take them further than Collins -- provided, of course, he gets the chance. Well, stay tuned.
"Jason is an enormous talent," Collins said. "He's shown a lot of promise here, and he's started to play well. He's always been seen to be 'The Guy,' and he deserves to be 'The Guy.'
"I understand the situation, but that doesn't mean I'm not competitive or that I don't want to play or that I'm not going to prepare. I'm here to push Jason and to push myself."
Zorn is here to push both of them, but he's here primarily to make Campbell the quarterback Washington thinks he can be. Sure, quarterback controversies are as much a part of the Washington landscape as cherry blossoms and black limos, but there isn't one here because Jim Zorn won't allow it.
"We don't need that," said Zorn. "It shouldn't be created. Jason Campbell is going to be our starter.
"When we watch video and when we watch where Jason is headed everybody is fired up about that. It's a balancing act, but we're just fortunate to have two solid guys."
One of whom starts. Jason Campbell, come on down.