- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 2, 2009

Who’s the unluckiest person on the District’s perpetually pathetic sports scene?

Manny Acta, who will have five more months of watching the Nationals blow ballgames unless he is mercifully relieved of his command?

Phillip Saunders, who faces the same kind of sorry season next winter with the Wizards and in addition must explain why in the world a 54-year-old man would be called “Flip”?

Nah. These guys are positively lucky compared with Jason Campbell.

If you’ll pardon a bad joke, Campbell is in the soup - or maybe very deep hot water - as he tries to pretend he’s welcome at this weekend’s Redskins minicamp.

Other than the chief inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., practically nobody in these parts is subjected to more intense scrutiny than the Redskins’ No. 1 quarterback.

Ask Sonny Jurgensen and Joe Theismann, who survived it to become stars.

Ask Heath Shuler and Patrick Ramsey, who didn’t.

This probably is a make-or-break year for Campbell, who will enter his third season as the starting quarterback realizing that his bosses have absolutely no confidence in his ability to move himself and the team onward and upward.

Nobody knows yet if he has what it takes to succeed in the excruciating NFC East and beyond. But he deserves a chance to try without owner Dan Snyder and lapdog Vinny Cerrato looking hither, thither and yon for his replacement.

The Redskins’ widely reported attempts to obtain first Jay Cutler and then Mark Sanchez were terribly unfair to Campbell and doubtless multiplied the pressure on him several times over.

All teams have the right to improve their roster and prospects. But you don’t, or at least shouldn’t, do it by humiliating the incumbent. That’s strictly bush-league.

Of course, Snyder never seems to learn his lesson. Now that Cutler has been signed by the Bears and Sanchez has been drafted by the Jets, will Danny and Vinny start talking up backup Todd Collins or No. 3 man Colt Brennan, a record-setting passer at Hawaii?

We don’t really know how Campbell feels about all this. Publicly, though, he has shown nothing but sheer class.

Describing his relationship with the Redskins as “an awkward situation” this week, Jason conceded, “It makes you feel like you’re a bad quarterback and not wanted.”

Typically, he put the prettiest possible face on an ugly matter by saying, “At the same time, it makes you a stronger person and a stronger quarterback.”

Well, we’ll see. Nobody needs to have his employers pursuing a replacement while he’s trying to get the job done (unless, perhaps, he’s a kicker who has missed three or four field goals in a row).

By its nature, playing quarterback at any level is the hardest thing to do in any team sport. I’m sure Campbell was under the gun, too, at his high school in Taylorsville, Miss., and Auburn, but nothing on the pigskin front quite equals the constant strain of crouching under center in the NFL. Every fan eyeballs you on every play. Every opponent is winding up for a knockout punch, physically or mentally. Every coach has his continued gainful employment riding in large measure on how you do your job.

You’ve noticed, I’m sure, that Jim Zorn has said practically nothing about the Redskins’ latest mess. For one thing, Zorn has his own security to worry about. For another, he’s a former quarterback who knows how important it is to bolster your guy’s confidence instead of putting a big, fat dent in it.

Can you imagine team founder George Preston Marshall telling Sammy Baugh that the Redskins were trying to trade for Sid Luckman? Or Jack Kent Cooke informing Theismann that he’d like to get his hands on Dan Marino?

OK, so Campbell is no Baugh or Theismann and might never be. But out of sheer compassion and football common sense, he deserves a full chance to rise or fall on his own.

“I’m not going to hold any grudges,” Jason said the other day. But you know what? I wouldn’t blame him if he did.

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