Jason Campbell was traded to the Oakland Raiders last year but he still makes his offseason home in the Washington area and on Tuesday night he talked with Chick Hernandez on Comcast SportsNet. The Redskins starting quarterback from midway through the 2006 season through 2009 started off the interview being philosophical about the trade to the Raiders.
“You understand that in this business that decisions are going to be made whether you agree with them or whether you don’t,” said Campbell. “You have to be able to move forward and count your blessings as they come.”
But when Hernandez asked if he thought he got a fair shot, Campbell said, “I feel like no one ever stood up for me.
“I felt like I was out there fighting and scrapping hard, I never really complained when we lost players and even when we plugged guys in off the street to come in and have to block for you. Not one time did I complain, not one time did I go off the record and say anything.”
Let’s examine what Campbell said here. The statement that nobody stood up for him doesn’t really hold water. Joe Gibbs stood up for him. Despite some rough spots in 2007, including a four-game losing streak that dropped them from 5-3 at midseason to 5-7 and on the verge of elimination from the playoffs, Gibbs stuck with Campbell until he suffered a dislocated kneecap against the Bears. That put Campbell out for the rest of the year. Todd Collins came in at quarterback and the Redskins won that game to start a four-game streak that got them into the playoffs.
Exit Gibbs and enter Jim Zorn. The head coach’s support for Campbell did not waiver one bit. Despite Collins’ stellar finish in ’07, there was no open competition for the starting job. There wasn’t even secret competition for the job. Campbell was the unquestioned starter for all 32 games under Zorn despite a 12-20 record. Zorn did bench Campbell once, after going scoreless in the first half of a Week 6 game against the then-winless Chiefs at FedEx Field. The next week Campbell was back in the saddle as the starter. Other than that one half, Campbell took virtually every snap.
Not only did his coaches stand behind him, his teammates did, too. Never on or off the record did any Redskins player ever throw Campbell under the proverbial bus.
By the way, Campbell was benched by Raiders coach Tom Cable after two games in Oakland last year and there was a quarterback controversy involving Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski that did not end until Gradkowski’s year ended with a shoulder injury. But we hear no complaints about nobody standing behind him from there.
Were Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato not standing behind Campbell in 2009 when they tried to trade for Jay Cutler and seriously considered moving up in the draft to draft Mark Sanchez? Yes. However, things like that happen frequently in the NFL. As Campbell said, “Decisions are going to be made whether you agree with them or whether you don’t.” The mistake that Snyder and Cerrato made was not in trying to upgrade the most important position on the team, it was in letting their interest in Cutler and Sanchez become general public knowledge and handling it in the ham-handed way that has been the trademark of the franchise ever since Snyder bought the team in 1999.
Now let’s move on to the part where Campbell talks about never complaining when the team lost players and when they “plugged guys in off the street” to block for him. His statement is mostly true, although after the Giants thumped the Redskins 45-12 at FedEx Field in December of 2009, CSN’s Kelli Johnson asked Campbell if he thought that some of his teammates quit during the game.
“I’ll be honest. I used to be one of those guys who tries to beat around the bush a little bit,” Campbell said. “But I’ll be honest, I think some guys have [quit].”
By and large, however, Campbell did take the high road while handing off to Quinton Ganther and having Levi Jones protecting his blind side.
But, so what? Very, very rarely do you hear any NFL quarterbacks complaining about who is blocking for them or to whom they are handing off or about the quality of the targets of their passes. It’s just part of the code. You focus on your job and do the best you can with what you have.
I don’t think that Jason Campbell is in line for any special awards or accolades for doing what most professional quarterbacks—make that most professional players in any sport—do on a routine basis.
I’m not trying to make this in a Campbell-bashing session here. He is as good a person as I have ever met. But I also don’t want to let him revise history as he has and have everyone accept it as the truth because he is a good man and, to some extent, a sympathetic one.