You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
Looking forward to next Sunday's game against Dallas, there is a little bit of smoke hanging out there, some haze that is keeping the view of that game from becoming clear. That smoke is being created by some talk, coming almost exclusively in the national media, that Jason Campbell will start that game at quarterback for the Redskins rather than Mark Brunell.
Here is a report typical of what we've been hearing. This is from Adam Schefter on the NFL Network on Thursday (at least I think it was Thursday's edition of NFL Total Access; they repeat it so many times that they all tend to run together):
It certainly looks that way. Jason Campbell took all the snaps this week with the first team offense. Now, granted, Mark Brunell does have a rib injury and the Redskins are on a bye week, so it was a good time to get the young Campbell some work with the first team. Now, there's a climate in which young quarterbacks are starting all around the league--Tony Romo in Dallas, Seneca Wallace in Seattle, Matt Leinart in Arizona, Vince Young in Tennessee--and it looks like the Redskins could be thinking the same thing. It could be, a week from this Sunday, Romo vs. Campbell.
Now, the first part of the report has been verified. Campbell did take all of the first-team work in the Redskins' two practices before they took their extended, four-day weekend due to the bye. According to the team, Brunell suffered a rib injury against the Colts and that is why Campbell got the work.
It is after that, however, that Schefter strays from verified fact into what appears to be conjecture. He does not cite a source, named or unnamed, that says that Campbell will start on Sunday. It appears that he is reading tea leaves composed of Campbell's practice snaps and the league-wide trend towards putting younger QB's behind center.
But Schefter isn't given to sheer speculation. Certainly, he's not always accurate but the guy is well connected. The same can be said of Chris Mortensen, who, in a broadcast report, said that Campbell might take the snaps with the first team this week as well. It seems unlikely that they would go with such reports based solely on Campbell filling in for an injured starter at practice and the fact that Romo, Young, and other inexperienced quarterbacks are starters.
This makes me wonder if they have been tipped off by someone on a deep background basis, meaning that the source gave one or both of them the information on the condition that they not report it directly. A source might do this in a situation where a fairly small circle of people is in possession of the information and the chances of him getting fingered as the leaker are high.
I also wonder why Brunell would sit out both of those practices. One of those, the one on Tuesday I believe, was all about how to fix what's been wrong with the passing game. If your starting quarterback, the player who certainly bears some of the blame for the passing game's woes, if not the lion's share of it, is at all capable of participating in that practice you would think that he would. Certainly a rib injury can be very painful, but not as painful as watching the Redskins' ineffective air attack all year long. If he's still your starter you get him out there for that one day, let the kid Campbell hand the ball off on the other day and then take the four days off.
The emphasis, of course is on if Brunell is still the starter.
There are other possibilities in play here. Perhaps Tuesday and Wednesday were essentially a two-day audition for Campbell. Joe Gibbs and Al Saunders put him through the paces, captured his every move on film and are spending a good chunk of this weekend evaluating how he handled things. They may determine that he could well be ready for prime time and give him his shot next Sunday or they could decide that the team would be best served by him being kept on the shelf for a while longer.
Another possibility—and, in reality, it's the probability—is that there is nothing to this. The situation was what Gibbs said it was. None of the Redskins beat writers, the guys who spend countless hours every week at Redskins Park, has given any credibility to the notion that Campbell will start against the Cowboys. One such writer, John Keim, our Redskins insider, looked in to these reports his conclusion was that they were "baseless".
He did add, however, that if Brunell can't practice on Monday, "then let the speculation begin."
Well, John, we decided not to wait until Monday to speculate. The bottom line is, however, that there's a lot more smoke than fire in the reports by Schefter and Mort. It would be very surprising—but not totally shocking—if the Jason Campbell era were to start on November 5 at FedEx Field against the Dallas Cowboys.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com