- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Poor Jason Campbell.

He is being required to learn his third offensive system as he prepares to enter his fourth season in the NFL.

This is sad, so darn sad.

Just as he was becoming comfortable with the 700-page playbook of Al Saunders — he was up to page 543 — Campbell is now being asked to forget everything he knew to be true and learn Jim Zorn’s West Coast offense.

As you know, all the various offensive systems in the NFL come with their own terminology, numbering classification and soundtrack. The latter would be the greatest hits of the Beach Boys in the case of the West Coast offense.

Campbell must commit to memory all the information associated with the West Coast offense before the team’s first game next season, which is an awful lot to ask of one person.

It is a tough deal.

Most of us do not have it that rough.

Most of us work 9 to 5, sit in traffic for two hours, then collapse on the sofa and start the process all over again the next day.

If any of us had to wake up each day and take up with the West Coast playbook instead of the Beltway, we would be sick about it.

Campbell’s date with a new playbook is one of the concerns being bandied about on the airwaves and among the team’s supporters looking to keep hope alive.

There is a mixture of sympathy and pity in people’s voices.

The poor guy. He has to learn another offense.

You might think these playbooks were written in Latin and carried all the secrets of life, one of which is: Do not throw into double coverage.

Nobody likes a quarterback who throws into double coverage unless the quarterback is Brett Favre.

You might think these playbooks were written by Albert Einstein, given all the discussion on how complex they are.

We heard the same stuff after Saunders landed with the Redskins before the 2006 season.

He was said to be a mastermind who would rev up the team’s inept offense.

It did not happen. Everyone of his plays might have worked on paper, but Mark Brunell would complete 35 passes for 35 inches, and the Redskins would finish with 13 points and lose the game.

The 13-point pattern persisted after Campbell became the starting quarterback.

It was not until Todd Collins took over for Campbell that the D.C. region saw the full impact of the 700-page tome.

But that was only because Collins had spent the last 10 to 15 years studying it before actually going out onto the field to execute it.

In that context, it was not a playbook. It was a professional death sentence.

The NFL is usually not enamored with 50-year-old rookie quarterbacks.

So now we come to Zorn’s playbook, and for all we know, the intricacies of the West Coast offense are possibly chiseled on a series of stone tablets.

If so, Campbell could develop a hernia in addition to having a headache from trying to cram so much information into his brain.

It seemed a lot simpler and effective back in the days of Sonny Jurgensen.

He would draw up a play in the dirt and send Charley Taylor or Bobby Mitchell deep and have Jerry Smith run a pattern across the middle of the field, and it would work nearly every time.

The Redskins once scored 72 points in a game in this fashion.

Now it takes the Redskins nearly half the season to score 72 points.

But they look smart doing it. Give them that. They put 100 guys in motion on every play, and they have a zillion different sets. Sometimes they have so many functions to perform before the snap that the clock runs down and they have to call a timeout in order to avoid a penalty.

Campbell, the poor guy, will have to memorize the timeout nuance as well.

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