Posted by: Mike Cornelius | April 8, 2010

A Class Act Prepares To Depart

So the Jason Campbell era comes to an end for the Washington Redskins. A quarterback that team owner Daniel Snyder clearly didn’t want is replaced by Donovan McNabb, a quarterback that Philadelphia Eagles fans never seemed to want.  Not at all sure I’ll ever figure out Eagles fans.  But then I’ve never booed Santa Claus, so perhaps I just can’t relate.

This is of course the second time that the Eagles have shipped a quarterback deemed expendable down the highway to DC. The first time was in April of 1964. Pudgy guy nicknamed Sonny. I’ll admit I was just a kid at the time, but I seem to recall that working out reasonably well for the Redskins.

I think there’s a pretty good chance that this second trade of a future Hall of Fame QB from Philadelphia to Washington will also work out well for my favorite NFL franchise. Certainly Washington’s fans deserve it. For the past eleven years the team has been owned by a man who in my opinion is the worst team owner in all of professional sports. Not just the NFL. Not just American professional sports. Not just current franchise owners. The worst owner ever.

Dan Snyder is not the first team owner to think that because he was incredibly successful in some other line of work, he could be a successful sports General Manager. In Snyder’s case, he was the king of something called “outsourced marketing services.” What that means to you and me was that he built a company that was really good at figuring out which consumers should get a phone call selling a particular product, or where best to put up a kiosk offering shoppers free samples of something. Since the something was never an NFL left tackle, I am admittedly clueless as to why he every thought this experience qualified him to be a GM; but hey, I’m not worth $1.3 billion.

Washington fans have suffered through a decade plus of boneheaded trades, countless signings of high-priced past-their-prime free agents, and a revolving door of coaches. But recently there have been some signs that maybe Snyder has finally figured out that if he ever wants to hold the Vince Lombardi trophy, he has to step back and let actual football people take charge. The welcome departure of Vinny Cerrato late last season, followed by the hiring of Bruce Allen as General Manager can certainly be counted as two steps in the right direction. The more recent naming of Mike Shanahan as Head Coach is a huge step up from the eminently likable but utterly overmatched Jim Zorn. For the moment at least, I will focus on Shanahan’s two Super Bowl victories rather than the fact that he has won exactly one post-season game with a quarterback not named Elway. And now trading for a 33-year old quarterback with extensive post-season experience certainly feels like a move made by a team interested in winning sooner rather than later.

For all that, it still won’t be easy. There remain gaping holes in the offensive line, Albert Haynesworth needs to be sent packing, the Redskins play in a desperately tough division, and did I mention that Shanahan has only won one post-season game with a quarterback not named Elway? Still, when a team’s previous season ended with losses in ten of its final twelve games, fans have to look for hope wherever they can find it.

But before moving on to the Shanahan and McNabb era, I think Jason Campbell deserves a good word. Campbell may well never be an NFL star, but the one thing I am certain of is that in D.C. he never had a chance. He played for two head coaches, four offensive coordinators, and a series of quarterbacks coaches. About the time he should have been reasonably expected to fully grasp one offensive style, Zorn arrived and installed a completely different one. He played behind an offensive line that was more often than not ravaged by injury and age.

But as difficult as were the on-field conditions during Campbell’s tenure, his treatment by the Snyder-led Redskins management was far worse. There were of course the occasional words of support or encouragement. But actions throughout made those words ring hollow. First the Redskins drafted quarterbacks in both the 2007 and 2008 drafts. Then prior to 2009 they very publicly pined after Denver’s Jay Cutler. When Cutler was traded to the Bears, USC’s Mark Sanchez became the object of their affection. But Snyder and Cerrato could only stand by and watch as the New York Jets made a draft-day trade to leapfrog ahead of Washington and take Sanchez with the fifth pick. Finally this off-season, right up until the announcement of the trade for McNabb, word was that the Redskins were preparing to draft Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen or Texas’ Colt McCoy with the fourth pick of the first round.

Against that backdrop, it would have been easy, indeed even understandable, if Campbell had thrown in the towel on the field and become a surly locker room distraction off of it. But instead he went out and did his best; actually compiling career highs for touchdown passes and quarterback rating in 2009. At the same time his public comments were focused on doing his job and improving the team, revealing not an ounce of bitterness. No, Jason Campbell may never be an NFL star. But I will still wish him well, and hope for his success, wherever he winds up. He has been a class act, one of the very few in the dysfunctional chaos of Dan Snyder’s Washington Redskins.

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