Oakland Raiders What If: What If Jason Campbell Hadn't Gotten Injured?

TommyCorrespondent IIIMarch 3, 2012

Oakland Raiders What If: What If Jason Campbell Hadn't Gotten Injured?

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    Professional sports is full of what ifs and what could haves.  There's no sport more exciting than professional football, which is always full of controversy.  The NFL has a rich history of blown calls, questionable acts, and many more.  As suspected, the Oakland Raiders have always been the center of excitement.

    This past season, the Oakland Raiders have had one of the most up-and-down seasons ever.  Poised to make their first playoff appearance since their Super Bowl blowout, the team dealt with the death of their beloved owner, a treacherous defense that lost half of the games and the loss of their starting quarterback, who was starting to turn the franchise and his career around. 

    But what if Jason Campbell never broke his collarbone?  What if he never scrambled and Scott Fujita never fell on top of him?  What could have happened?  Would the Raiders have made their first playoff appearance since 2002?  

    I'll discuss all of this in the first entry of my new "Oakland Raiders What If" series. 

The 10 Games Without Campbell

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    First, let's look at the Raiders' results after Campbell went down.

    Obviously, after losing Jason, the Raiders went on to win only four more games and lost six.  Granted, three of those losses were to playoff teams.  

    However, there were still some embarrassing losses.  The Raiders blew the game against the Broncos, threw six interceptions against the Chiefs, got handled by the Dolphins and lost the game that could have propelled them into the playoffs had they won. 

    Now, let's pretend Campbell was still playing and see how the games probably would have turned out.  Check the next slide. 

Week 7: Kansas City Chiefs

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    First, let us analyze the week leading up to the game.  Jason had just gotten injured the week before.  Kyle Boller stepped in and did almost nothing against the Browns.  

    The trade deadline was coming up and Hue Jackson, along with Mark Davis and Amy Trask, traded a first and a conditional first for a quarterback who was semi-retired.  The result of all that?  Well, we know all too well. 

    What If: If Jason Campbell were playing, chances are, the Raiders offense would not have been shut out.  He would not have thrown a whopping six interceptions.  Take away the two bigger mistakes by the quarterbacks that should have never been playing, and the score is 14-0.  

    With the two other touchdowns, Jason couldn't have done anything as the Chiefs effectively drove against the Raider defense.  However, the Raiders would have at least seven points with Jason there.  How, exactly?

    Remember that sequence where the Raiders sent out big-bodied Michael Bush in the wildcat?  Caught off guard, the Chiefs called a time out to get better situated.  After the timeout, Hue Jackson made a terrible mistake by leaving the same exact offense there, leading to Derrick Johnson stuffing Bush at the goal line.

    Well, if Campbell were there, it's likely the Raiders would have done something different.  Say, play-action pass?  Kyle Boller, while athletic, is not someone that Hue (or any coach in the NFL) trusts making a clutch play in the back of the end zone.  

    Jason has done it many times, including a couple in his first season as a Raider.  Remember the throw to Zach Miller against the Chargers?  Or that play-action fake where he walked past the linebacker for a touchdown?  

    With Campbell, the Raiders have a more efficient offense and would end up victorious.

    Record: 5-2

Week 9: Denver Broncos

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    Fresh off the bye week, Carson Palmer seemed to have some sort of control over the explosive offense.  At the same time, the Broncos had just gotten spanked by the Lions, leaving everyone thinking that Tebow would get creamed against the Raiders' secondary.

    Oh, how wrong we all were.  Tebow had one of his better passing days while running up a storm on the Raider defense.

    What If: If Jason Campbell were there, there honestly would be not much of a difference in the result.  This game was largely lost on the defensive side of the ball.  

    Carson Palmer had a decent game after his first full week of practice, going 19-for-35 for 332 yards and three touchdowns.  He showed his rust when he tossed another triple-interception game.  

    Would Campbell have thrown three interceptions?  Probably not, but he would not have thrown the ball for 300-plus yards and three touchdowns, either.  Campbell would have managed the game, handed it off to Bush, made the necessary throws and let the defense do their job.

    But the defense could not.  They were terrible against Tebow when he dropped back to throw and were even worse when he ran his read-option offense.  This is truly confusing because pretty much everyone on the defensive side of the ball has played against the read-option offense sometime in their life.  

    The defense was embarrassed by Tim Tebow. Perhaps this was the real start of Tebowmania. 

    Record: 5-3

Week 10: San Diego Chargers

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    After dropping two straight, the Raiders had their work cut out for them as they faced the Chargers on a short week, playing in the first Thursday night game of the season.  

    In one of the best games of the season, Carson Palmer let loose with 299 yards on 14 completions.  He finished with a passer rating of 125 and threw two touchdowns. His one interception came after Michael Bush missed the block, allowing the defender to impact the throw.

    What If:  Had Jason Campbell played, it's not clear which way the game would have gone.  The receivers did an amazing job getting past the defensive backs all day long, but Campbell is not as good of a passer as Palmer, and it's questionable whether he would have made those throws. 

    However, with the potent offense still there, the Raiders could have scored at least 20 points, no doubt.  

    The defense had a good game, for the most part at least.  Kamerion Wimbley went off on backup left tackle Brandyn Dombrowski and got to Rivers four times.  The Chargers' offense was just in confusion the entire day, and it cost them the game.  

    One big play that could have swayed the game was Vincent Brown's touchdown that was reversed.  He had been terrorizing the Raider defense all day and had another big catch in the end zone.  Fortunately for the Raiders, Ed Hochuli declared that Lito Sheppard was out of bounds while touching the ball, ruling the play dead.  

    If Campbell had played and the defense had held their ground, the Raiders would have come out victorious. 

    Record: 6-3

Week 11: Minnesota Vikings

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    There was a lack of buildup before this game.  Christian Ponder was continuing his rookie progress.  Carson Palmer was coming off his best game as a Raider.  

    However, in the game, the Raiders were lucky to escape with a win.  This was a game filled with scary injuries, hair-pulling defense that ignored Ponder rushing and risky calls by Hue Jackson.  

    What If: What if Jason Campbell were there?  Well, there would be a minimal change in the game.  The defense did a terrible job containing Percy Harvin and Christian Ponder scrambling.  There is nothing Jason could have done to better the defensive side of the ball.

    Palmer had a pedestrian day, passing for only 164 yards.  He did complete 74% of his passes and finished with one touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 107.9.

    Campbell would have duplicated Palmer's performance, causing a Raiders' win in the same fashion.

    Record: 7-3

Week 12: Chicago Bears

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    Raiders' head coach Hue Jackson was under the microscope after having criticized the referees for not calling a fair game in the Vikings game.  It was the topic of discussion all week going into the Bears game.

    What If: If Jason Campbell had played against the Bears, I fear that the Raiders would have lost this game.  

    For anyone who doesn't remember, this game was painful to watch.  Every time the offense began to gain momentum, the rock-solid Bears' defense tightened and stuffed the Raiders.

    In the end, Janikowski made not one, not two, not three, but six field goals!  Six!  The Raiders offense stalled so much that the only touchdown came late in the game.  That lone touchdown won the game for the Raiders, as they would have lost with only 18 points.

    Palmer had a high-flying game, passing for over 300 yards, but was quiet everywhere else.  Palmer threw zero touchdowns and one interception and only completed 57% of his passes.

    I hate to say it, but Jason Campbell would probably have lost the game.  He is not capable of slinging the ball like Palmer did and would be lucky to get around 250 yards against the Bears defense.

    With Bush struggling to find holes, the Raiders needed Palmer to get the ball downfield into field goal range.  Without Palmer, there's no way Janikowski would be close enough to kick six field goals.  

    Record:  7-4

Week 13: Miami Dolphins

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    At this point, the Raiders were starting to feel hot.  They had just won three in a row and were facing the 4-8 Dolphins.  Consider this a trap game.  

    The Raiders thought the lowly Dolphins were in no way capable of keeping up with their explosive offense.  Wrong.  The Raiders got manhandled in Miami and walked away with a bad taste in their mouths.

    What If:  It's somewhat ironic that Jason Campbell has never played the Dolphins as a Raider, despite the two teams playing twice in two seasons.  In 2010, Bruce Gradkowski was named the starter and lost 33-17.

    In 2011, Jason was injured and Palmer was the starter.  He finished the game with 273 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.  Anyone who had the guts to watch the whole game knows that most of those yards, not to mention the touchdowns, were in garbage time.

    With Campbell, the Raiders' offense would have stalled as well.  The Dolphins' front seven bullied the Raiders' offensive line, as they did in 2010.  With no run game, the Raiders couldn't even move the ball.  Campbell wouldn't be able to have nearly enough passing yards to win the game for the Raiders.

    Record:  7-5

Week 14: Green Bay Packers

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    The Packers continued their quest for perfection as they faced off against the Raiders in week 14.  

    Many members of the Black Hole highly anticipated this game.  The Raiders had their shot to show what their offense could really do against an elite team.  Instead, the offense was kept in check and the defense obliterated in a final score of 46-16.  

    What If:  As in the last few games, Campbell wouldn't have been able to muster a better offense than Palmer did.  Palmer did have a horrendous game, however, throwing four interceptions.  

    Campbell would not have thrown as many interceptions and most likely would have come close to Palmer's yardage of 250.  But touchdowns would be hard to come by against the aggressive Packer defense.

    Meanwhile, the Packers' offense went to work against the Raider defense.  The score was 31-0 by halftime.  The Packers went on to score 15 more points in a blowout. 

    With Campbell as the starter, the Packers' score total may have been lower because he probably wouldn't have given the Packers so many chances on offense.  

    Record: 7-6

Week 15: Detroit Lions

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    This game was one to remember.  After two long road games that resulted in a beating, the Raiders came home to a Lions team fresh off a win over Minnesota.  

    Late in the fourth quarter of this game, the Raiders, led by Palmer's 367-yard performance, had a 13-point lead.  The defense faltered with some sketchy play calling. 

    The result?  A one-point loss in the final seconds of the game.

    What If: If Campbell were there, I do think this game would have had a similar outcome.  I actually think Campbell could have come close to 300 yards in this game, as both teams went back and forth.  The defense had a up-and-down game through three-and-a-half quarters.

    Then the final minutes of the fourth quarter came.  Aaron Curry had just scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery, and it looked like the Raiders would come out victorious.  Matthew Stafford went on to torch the Raiders' defense and pulled the game within six.  

    But then came more sketchy play-calling.  Just a few ticks before the two-minute warning, the Raiders decide to run a deep pass play to Chaz Schilens.  

    What in the world was Hue Jackson thinking?  Was he too in love with Palmer and thinking he could risk a big play when the defense isn't expecting it?  

    Of course, plans fail, and the Raiders defense blow the lead.  But what if Campbell were the quarterback on that third down?  Would Hue Jackson tell him to go deep, or would he call a safer play, telling Campbell to do just enough like the game manager he is? 

    While it's impossible to see how things could have played out, I believe that if it were that exact situation, Campbell would convert and the Raider would run the clock out. 

    Record: 8-6

Week 16: Kansas City Chiefs

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    In the real world, the Raiders have dropped three straight by now and are 7-7 heading into the Arrowhead.  

    This game was yet another where the Raiders had problems finding their groove.  Kyle Orton had just pulled an upset over the previously undefeated Packers and was feeling good.  He seemed to party too hard that week because he had an average week against the Raiders defense.  He broke 300 yards, but threw two interceptions.

    On the Raiders side, they struggled all day.  Palmer had only 237 yards, while Michael Bush only averaged 3.0 yards per carry.  

    The Raiders made mistakes all day, including the fake that went for a touchdown, only to be called back due to a delay of game.  Seriously?  A delay of game penalty?

    What If: This game is one that is a bit hard to judge.  Had Campbell played, it is possible that the result would be the same.  It's likely that Campbell would have duplicated the performance Palmer had, so the defense would have played the same and the game still would have gone into overtime. 

    Now, we have to wonder if Jason is capable of making that deep throw to Darrius Heyward-Bey.  I have no doubt that he has the arm, but does he have the leadership?  The ability to make the throw in the clutch?  

    It's questionable, but I would bet that he makes the play.  

    We saw it against the Chiefs in 2010 when he made two clutch deep throws.  It's three deep passes if you want to include the one where Ford pulled the ball away from Flowers, but that was not a very good throw, if you ask me.  I was referring to the one where Ford caught the ball on his knees while falling and the one in overtime.

    If Campbell made the throw again here, the Raiders would have been in field goal range.  

    Record: 9-6

Week 17: San Diego Chargers

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    The Raiders came into this game needing a win and a Denver loss to make the playoffs.  The football gods smiled upon Raider Nation and granted the team with a Denver loss.  It was up to the Raiders to do their part and beat the Chargers.  

    The Raiders actually had a very successful day offensively.  Palmer passed for 400 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.  Two Raider receivers had over 100 yards and the team scored 26 points.  Generally, that should get a win.  That is, if the team has a good defense.

    The Raiders defense and bad days go together like peanut butter and jelly.  If you could sum up the season in one drive, look no further than the drive where the Raiders gave up 99 yards in less than 10 plays.  The Raiders had just scored some points, almost got the ball back on the ensuing kickoff and faltered.

    What If: If Jason Campbell were there, he would have done no different.  He would not have thrown for 400, but it's possible he could have broke 300.  He would have done a good job managing the ball and putting the Raiders in position for points.  

    Palmer did the same, but the Raiders could not score touchdowns.  Sebastian Janikowski finished his best season with a four field-goal day.

    The reason the Raiders lost this game was their defense.  Michael Floyd, a career No. 2, had 127 yards.  Antonio Gates embarrassed safeties on his way to 100 yards.

    The biggest problem was the lack of pressure.  The Raiders had sacked Rivers six time in Week 10.  In Week 17, the Chargers were prepared.  

    Jared Gaither was ready to silence the team that decided against signing him in the off-season and protected Rivers' blindside admirably.  The lack of pressure and inability to cover killed the Raiders this game, despite the offensive production.

    Record: 9-7

Playoffs

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    With Jason Campbell, the Raiders have a better chance making the playoffs.  If the exact same things happened but with Jason Campbell at the helm, the Raiders would finish 9-7.  

    The Broncos would still be 8-8, leaving the Raiders facing the Steelers in their first playoff game in a decade.

    How would this game have played out?  One of two ways.  The Raiders' passing offense is rock-solid and beats up an aging Steelers defense like it did two seasons ago when Gradkowski led the insane upset in Pittsburgh.

    Or, it could play out like the 2010 season where the Steelers were too physical, got the Raiders psychologically frazzled and led to Big Rich taking a shot at Big Ben.

    I'm going to have to go with the latter here: The Raiders make the playoffs, but fall short to a physical Steelers team.  Perhaps, they should play Terrelle Pryor and let him do his best Tim Tebow impersonation.  

2012 NFL Draft

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    Had Jason Campbell never gotten injured, the Raiders would be two picks richer.  Instead of giving the Bengals their first and conditional second for 2013, the Raiders would have kept their pick and been gearing up to make an impact in the draft.  

    So, who exactly would the Raiders be targeting?  One has to assume a cornerback or a nose tackle, namely Dontari Poe.  

    If the Raiders made the playoffs, but lost, I believe they would have the 21st or 22nd pick of the NFL Draft.  Ironically, it's a toss-up with the Bengals.  

    I have to say if the Raiders had one of those picks, they would be in a good position to take Dontari Poe.  Despite an excellent combine, he is not slated to go until after the top 10.  The Raiders could have gotten lucky.

    If not, the Raiders could try and target one of the talented cornerbacks.  Morris Claiborne is a sure top-10 pick, but Janoris Jenkin and Dre Kirkpatrick are two really good players.  Both have checkered pasts yet have cleaned up their image.

    Typically, Kirkpatrick would be the Al Davis pick.  Kirkpatrick is physical at 6'1" and can play press coverage well.  He was well coached and is ready for the NFL.  Plus, he ran a 4.5 40, which isn't blazing, but great for a 6'1" cornerback.  

The Fate of Hue Jackson

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    If Jason Campbell were never injured, the Raiders would have been poised to make their first playoff appearance in some time.  

    That's now exactly how everything played out.  Instead, the Raiders blew their division lead, lost to the Chargers, and Hue Jackson threw the team under the bus.  One has to wonder what happens if Campbell had played and everything had worked out like I said.

    The final game doesn't matter as much, and the Raiders make the playoffs.  Hue Jackson doesn't blame the loss on the team and acts in a much more mature way.  Does that change things at all?  Does Mark Davis say to Reggie McKenzie, "Hey, I know you want your guy, but Hue led us to our first playoff in 10 years—we have to keep him"? 

    I say no.  The fact is that McKenzie wants his own guys, and as general manager, he has the power to do that.  Mark Davis has said he doesn't want to be as involved as Al was and will let Reggie handle the football side.  

    It's sad to say, but after Al Davis had passed away and the rumors of Reggie McKenzie began to surface, Hue Jackson's fate seemed to be sealed.  

In Closing

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    Obviously, there are millions of different factors that go into a football season.  What ifs are just a small margin of those factors.  But it's fun to think—what if this didn't happen; then this and that would have happened.  

    In this case, the Raiders could have made the playoffs.  They could have been able to prevent trading two early picks for a replacement.  It's possible that Hue Jackson, and not Dennis Allen, could be our head coach today.  

    Tell me what you think!  I have plenty of other topics to write about for this series, and I look forward to being able to write them all—if the reception is great, of course! 

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