The week following arguably the greatest performance of Jason Campbell’s career, there were plenty of people trying to make the argument that Campbell could be a longer term answer than just finishing out the season. Earlier in the year, Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer tried to make the claim he was playing at an elite level while Dustin Fox in what seemed to be trying to make the argument that Campbell was really good and just needed his ribs to be healthy. Campbell is not the answer for the Cleveland Browns outside of being a backup and potentially third string with whoever they draft and Brian Hoyer ahead of him.
It is understandable that fans of the Browns would be grasping at any kind of straws that look like they could be a great quarterback given the fact they are still looking for the next great Browns quarterback since Bernie Kosar and looking for the next even promising quarterback since Tim Couch. This situation with Campbell happened the last time Rob Chudzinski was here. Campbell is nothing more than Derek Anderson all over again.
Fans and media are far too quick to conflate great play from skills players as meaning a quarterback is great. Last week, Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron dominated the New England Patriots, ergo Campbell was a great quarterback. Campbell did play well, but this week showed just how much things change when he cannot rely on those players to make big time play after big time play. That sounds incredibly similar to Derek Anderson throwing passes to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow in 2007. Edwards would go up and make an acrobatic catch and praise would be heaped on Anderson for putting a pass up in the same county and Edwards going up and making a huge grab. It was enough to get him to a Pro Bowl with Vince Young in what may have been a record for the number of players who opted not to go in 2007 while showing plenty of flashes of who he really was like the final game of the year where he made Chinedum Ndukwe’s entire NFL career in one afternoon against the Cincinnati Bengals.
This week against the Bears, Josh Gordon was still wide open and for some reason, Campbell did not look at him. There were a number of situations where Gordon was wide open, even in a situation where he was matched up on a linebacker and Campbell did not throw the ball at him. Norv Turner did his job and got the matchup. Campbell did not make the throw.
And in a number of cases when Campbell did see the play and make the throw, he made inaccurate passes. Throwing passes behind open targets or in one situation he threw a bounce pass to the wide open Gordon. It was just ugly. But this is who Campbell is. When he is comfortable and has time to scan the field, he will make some good reads and some good plays. He will also miss plays he should not.
And when Campbell senses pressure, he finds the check down in a hurry and gets rid of the ball. There were screens mixed in, but Browns running backs combined for 11 of the 23 completions in this game. Gordon and Cameron combined for 7. Maybe the Bears deserve credit for executing their game plan effectively, but it certainly seemed like Campbell had opportunities he simply missed.
Cornerbacks are supposed to have a short memory and that might explain Fox’s appreciation of Campbell this season, but there is nothing he has done this year that he has not done in stops with Chicago, Oakland and Washington. The physical talent is there, but decision making and inconsistency become a real problem. The results end up wildly inconsistency.
Hoyer showed enough to warrant getting a shot to compete in camp assuming his ACL will be healthy in time, but it would be a huge mistake to go into next season with two games of Hoyer and a big pile of inconsistent play from Campbell and say these are the quarterbacks for the season. This argument has been brought up this week by Fox and others and it would be a disaster not only on the field but in the media.
Imagine if the Browns are unable to draft a quarterback and they roll into camp and Hoyer is not ready. Campbell is taking all of the snaps in training camp. Meanwhile, the team has to try to sell tickets on the idea they will be improved next year. Could it work? Maybe, but there is absolutely no reason to think Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, Ray Farmer, Chud and Norv Turner are going to do it that way.
It is understandable that fans would be desperate for someone to take this quarterback job and run with it. The fairy tales and all of that would be wonderful. Maybe Hoyer can be that player. Campbell has shown time and time again he cannot. He has done fine in relief work as the Browns play out the string and get ready for the 2014 NFL Draft and can be a fine backup and a true professional in a locker room, which is what his role should be, but that is the extent of it. The Browns need to find Gordon and Cameron a legitimate passing threat and to this point, they have nothing but a glimmer of hope in a guy who is trying to get off of his crutches.