Of all the quarterback controversies to arise following week two of the NFL season (Eagles, Titans, Bills, Panthers, Cardinals), there is one that utterly shocked me. I would have never expected the Raiders to be questioning whether Bruce Gradkowski gives them a better chance to win games than Jason Campbell.
Putting aside Al Davis’ seemingly laughable off-season comment that he saw Campbell as Jim Plunkett, I really believed that Campbell was going to give the Raiders the stability they had lacked at the quarterback spot since Rich Gannon hung ‘em up in 2004.
Think about some of the names the Raiders have trotted out at quarterback the past five years: Kerry Collins, Marques Tuiasosopo, Aaron Brooks, Andrew Walter, Josh McCown, Daunte Culpepper, Charlie Frye, Bruce Gradkowsi, and of course, JaMarcus Russell. That’s about as good of a motley crew of has-beens and backups as you will find this side of Cleveland.
With the off-season acquisition of Campbell, it was clear the Raiders had wised up and moved on from Russell. The optimism of having a real quarterback taking snaps from center had people believing the Raiders would be respectable this year. Surprisingly, even people outside the Black Hole were whispering “Raiders” and “playoffs” in the same sentence.
But then it all came crashing down.
In a matter of six quarters, the Raiders had seen enough of Jason Campbell running the offense to realize backup Bruce Gradkowski would give them a better shot at successfully moving the football.
Campbell opened up the year with a disastrous game at Tennessee. The fifth-year quarterback was sacked four times, had three passes batted down, and committed two turnovers against the Titans. The Raiders were down 38-6 before they scored their first (and only) touchdown of the game on a pass from Campbell to Darren McFadden.
Sunday’s week two home game against the weak Rams defense proved to be more of the same for Campbell. He went 8/15 for 87 yards and an interception, leading the Raiders into scoring territory in two of his five drives (Sebastian Janikowski missed a 46-yarder and made a 38-yarder).
Coach Tom Cable decided he had seen enough of Campbell’s greatest show on grass and gave backup Bruce Gradkowski the nod after halftime. The Polish Cannon led the Raiders to points on three of his six drives. His final drive, he converted a critical third down to put the team in position to run out the clock and win the game.
It’s pretty crazy to think that a 6th round pick out of Toledo is more effective than a former first-round pick out of Auburn, but that appears to be the case.
All throughout his career excuses have been made for Campbell. While in college, Campbell had four different offensive coordinators and was forced to learn a new scheme every single year.
In Washington, Campbell got to play a season and a half under Al Saunders’ complicated offensive system. Saunders was blown out and Jim Zorn took over, introducing Campbell to the West Coast offense. “Six offensive coordinators and offensive systems in seven years,” his defenders cried! “The guy’s never had a chance to succeed!” the supporters said.
Well guess what? Campbell has now made 54 career starts and has never looked anything better than average. Sure he comes across as a stand-up guy and professional, but the bottom line is he’s not a difference-making quarterback. I’ll actually argue that he’s not even a good game manager.
Campbell is now in his fifth season and he still doesn’t look good. Forget the offensive coordinators, forget about the receiving options, forget about all the excuses. By now, if Campbell were a good quarterback, he would have proven so. It’s time to realize he’s nothing more than an average quarterback at best. This time, Jason Campbell only has himself to blame for his lack of success at the professional level.
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