Nothing sets chins wagging quite like the drafting of a quarterback in the first round. Especially when it’s the second time in four years a team has done it. That almost never happens, even in the Not For Long world of the NFL.
The Redskins have done a lot of unconventional things since Dan Snyder became boss, but taking Jason Campbell in Round 1 on Saturday — after taking Patrick Ramsey in Round 1 three drafts ago — is the humdinger of all lollapaloozas. Only four clubs in the last four decades have doubled up on QBs like that, spent two No. 1s on them in such a short period of time.
So this ain’t just another first-round pick; it’s a pick for which Joe Gibbs’ second term may well be remembered. If Campbell plays like he did at Auburn and returns the Redskins to glory, the decision to draft him will be hailed as one of Coach Joe’s finest hours. But if Campbell turns out to be the second coming of Heath Shuler and completes more passes to the chain gang than to his own receivers, the decision will undoubtedly haunt Coach Joe for the rest of his days.
So why would Gibbs do it, given all the other needs he could have addressed with the 25th pick (e.g. defensive end, wide receiver, linebacker)? The most obvious interpretation, of course, is that he’s dissatisfied with Ramsey on some level — and perhaps he is. It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if the selection of Campbell had as much to do with Fred Smoot and Antonio Pierce as with Patrick.
How’s that, you ask? Well, this has been an eye-opening offseason for Coach Joe, one that has seen two ?core Redskins? — both entering their primes — leave as free agents (one of them to play for, gasp, the Giants). The message is painfully clear: It isn’t the ‘80s, anymore, Joe. Players aren’t going to re-sign with the club out of loyalty … or because they have no choice. If you’re not the highest bidder, you stand a good chance of losing somebody. Heck, you can even lose somebody who’s in the middle of a long-term deal, such as Laveranues Coles, if he isn’t happy with the direction of the club. He can just whine himself out of town.
Ramsey has two years left on his contract. After that, he can walk — that is, unless the Redskins opt to franchise him, a pretty expensive proposition. (Also, something tells me Gibbs isn’t exactly Patrick’s all-time favorite coach, not after bringing in Mark Brunell and now Campbell.) So one way to look at Jason is as an insurance policy, in case Ramsey goes the same route Smoot and Pierce did. Two years from now, the kid should be ready to play — if he really is as good as Coach Joe thinks.
But is he? That’s the question on which ?Joe Gibbs, the Sequel? could hinge. Most of the league, let’s not forget, had a shot at Campbell before the Redskins took him at No.25; and any time a quarterback is drafted in the bottom half of the first round, you wonder if the team might have reached a bit. Were Jim Druckenmiller (27th, 1997), Ramsey (32nd, ‘02), Kyle Boller (19th, ‘03), Rex Grossman (22nd, ‘03) and J.P. Losman (22nd, ‘04) really first-round talents, or were their values inflated because of the importance of their position?
No quarterbacks, interestingly enough, have been picked in the second round of the last four drafts. That suggests a certain amount of panic buying, clubs jumping on anybody with a whiff of ability early — lest they get shut out. According to one draft service, Campbell was only the 47th-best player on the board. Other prognosticators had him as a second-rounder, too. And yet he cost the Redskins not only a No. 1, but a No. 3 and a No. 4, too (the selections they sent to Denver for the 25th pick).
That’s fairly steep for an unknown quantity. (The Chiefs, after all, gave up only a No. 1 for Trent Green, and the Bills paid the same price for Drew Bledsoe.) It seems to be the going rate, however. In fact, the picks for Boller (a No. 1 and a No. 2) and Losman (a No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5) were even more expensive than the one for Campbell (who was drafted several slots lower than the other two).
Should be fascinating to see how it all plays out. In Gibbs’ first go-round, the Redskins never used a high draft choice on a quarterback. They got Jay Schroeder in the third round, Mark Rypien and Stan Humphries in the sixth. The philosophy was to draft a QB in the middle rounds and then teach him the Gibbs Way. But the NFL is a whole different world now, a world Coach Joe is still trying to come to grips with.