Scapegoat or Free Agency Find? The Tale of an Under-Rated Quarterback
Let’s fast-forward to the summer of 2010, as the free agency period is beginning. You’re the GM of a quarterback-needy team and your scouts are raving about one player in particular.
“He’s great at protecting the ball, he’s never thrown more than 11 interceptions in a season. Two years ago he only put up 5 picks as a starter!” raves Scout #1.
“In this kid’s career, he’s got a better completion percentage, TD-INT ratio and quarterback rating than Eli Manning! And he’s still only 28 years old.” mentions Scout #2.
“I just love his size and ability to run” says Scout #3, citing his 6’5”, 230 lb frame.
Who would you rather have as your starting quarterback, JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Jake Delhomme, or the mystery quarterback? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
While Eli Manning is praised for taking chances and making “gutsy” plays to push the ball downfield, he isn’t penalized in the minds of the media for the mistakes that come with this risky style of play. Why? Because he won a Superbowl. He got hot at the right time and now he’s a championship-caliber player in many pundits’ eyes.
The stats say that Jason Campbell is a more reliable, accurate, efficient quarterback than Eli.
In his four seasons as an NFL quarterback, Jason Campbell has improved every year in DVOA (with a slight slip this year), completion percentage, yards per pass attempt and quarterback rating.
While he seems to have regressed a little in 2009, the overall offensive performance of the Redskins this season must be taken into account. The running game is miserable (ranked 26th in DVOA) and Campbell relies on Antwan Randle-El and Santana Moss as his main receivers, who rank 27th and 67th in the league in DVOA respectively. Quarterbacks need weapons around them and a line to protect them. The Redskins line ranks 27th in pass protection. I’d say that Campbell’s poor season is quite easily explained.
Is Campbell on the same career trajectory as Philip Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger are? Absolutely not. He seems to lack their ability to torch a defense for 400 yards and 3 TDs. But at 28, he is hitting his prime as a player and has never had elite offensive talent around him, other than Clinton Portis. And don't forget, he's being tutored this year by a head coach who is clealry in over his head, Jim Zorn.
Campbell is the perfect quarterback for a team that likes to play conservative on offense, while relying on the running game and a stout defense. In other words, the Panthers and Dolphins should be fighting it out for his services this summer. Just take a look at the comparison between Campbell and Delhomme in 2009. The Panthers would be a play-off team with Campbell at quarterback.
Campbell does have his weaknesses. While he has a strong arm, he is rarely willing to take a chance downfield. That said, how many quarterbacks would be willing to heave it up for Moss or Randle-El to win a jump ball? Not many, because that is neither receiver’s strength. They both excel at quick, underneath routes with the potential to pick up yards after the catch. At Auburn, Campbell threw the deep ball very well. With the right targets and play design, I’m confident he can do it in the NFL.
Campbell’s other flaw is that he’s the type of player who keeps his mouth shut and just does his job. While in my mind, this is an admirable trait, he hasn’t stuck up for himself as fans and talk radio shows in Washington have been tearing him apart all year.
For all you GMs out there who need a quarterback, just cross your fingers and hope that the Redskins are dumb enough to let him walk after his contract expires this summer.
Many of the stats in this post are derived from the publicly available and premium database statistics at FootballOutsiders.com, NFL.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com
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