- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2008

So quarterback Jason Campbell is immersed in learning the West Coast offense one page of the playbook at a time, and patience is the directive being foisted on the supporters of the Redskins.

This worrisome reality comes after the Redskins looked inept against the Giants and the Cowboys and Eagles rolled to victory in the first week of the NFL season.

Campbell is laboring under the growing perception that he possibly is not the long-term solution at quarterback. He may not even remain the starting quarterback if the Redskins falter in the weeks ahead, a genuine prospect given the quality of teams in the NFC East.

If the Redskins appear to be en route to a 5-11 season and the West Coast offense seems to be written in hieroglyphics, the clamor on Jim Zorn to make a switch at quarterback will be pronounced.

None of this entirely fair to Campbell, who is learning yet another new offensive system and revamping his mechanics yet anew.

Campbell has been required to absorb the teachings of Bill Musgrave, Al Saunders and now Zorn since joining the Redskins in 2005. He is making it clear that the Redskins will have to find a way to scratch out a few victories until he and his teammates have mastered the offense.

These are not reassuring words from a quarterback who was sidelined after sustaining a dislocated left kneecap in the 13th game last season, when backup Todd Collins rallied the Redskins to three consecutive wins and a playoff berth.

You can debate whether Campbell would have been able to orchestrate that season-saving push. That it is worthy of debate reveals the uncertainty that envelops Campbell, who seemingly has the size, arm and temperament to be a first-rate quarterback.

But does he have that sense of assurance to make a play that is not self-evident, to spin away from a potential sack and complete a pass that sucks the life out of the opposition?

Eli Manning, who seemingly lacks Campbell’s countenance and tools, made such a play in Super Bowl XLII, the improbable 32-yard completion to David Tyree’s helmet that preserved the game-winning drive with 59 seconds left.

It was the kind of play often associated with Brett Favre, whose regular-season debut with the Jets featured an equally ill-conceived pass that somehow resulted in a touchdown.

Favre eluded a sack attempt on fourth down and threw what appeared to be a hopeless, punt-like pass to Chansi Stuckey, who beat the defenders to the ball to give the Jets what turned out to be deciding score.

Favre, in particular, is inclined to mock the play-calling conservatism that permeates the NFL coaching ranks. He is not the least perturbed with throwing two interceptions in a game so long as he has three touchdown passes to offset them.

His mind-set is to make big plays and accept the negative consequences that go with the approach.

There is a lot to be said for that, as the fans of the Redskins know all too well from the frustrating days of Mark Brunell, the master of completing 20 passes in a row totaling 90 inches.

That tactic was advantageous to Brunell’s quarterback rating but not especially beneficial to the team putting a significant number of points on the scoreboard.

Zorn suggests part of the 2008 season will be about Campbell getting acclimated to the West Coast offense and that he will be a whole lot more proficient in the system next season. That outlook does not inspire the faithful or lend itself to hope.

If anything, the Redskins’ season already is up against hopeless, exacerbated by the strength of the NFC East.

The Giants, Cowboys and Eagles are arguably the three best teams in the NFC, each in possession of a quarterback who knows his coach’s system.

Campbell, alas, is still looking for a light switch in the dark.

It hardly bodes well for a team that believed in its playoff worthiness in the offseason.

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