Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Skins 17 - Bucs 20: The Future is in the Future

I was very impressed by the play of Jason Campbell on Sunday. He played much better than I expected. His arm looked great and he scrambled out of at least one sack to convert a third down, but I was most impressed with his poise. On his first touchdown pass, with the ball on the Bucs’ five-yard line, he rolled right and waited several beats for a receiver to break open. The only receiver in the area was Cooley and he eventually worked his way up to the goal line to enable Campbell to deliver the ball cleanly in front of four defenders.

Most young QBs playing their first game would have seen that nothing was initially open and would have tried to run for the score in that spot. Hell, guys like Vick still try to run in that spot. But, running was low percentage compared with a throw. Campbell was six- to eight-yards away from a score with four Bucs in the area. He showed veteran-like patience on that play. The play reminded me a lot of “The Catch” that 49ers fans know well. Later, Campbell ran the two-minute offense without a hitch and threw a touchdown late in the game to pull within three. He didn't look like a deer in headlights. I don't think he could have done any better in a debut.

Bill Maas's Strategery
A thread started on ExtremeSkins had the title: "Bill Maas Sucks." Maas called Sunday's Redskins game. I have to agree with the thread starter. In fact, I logged onto the internet, muted the TV, and synched my TIVO picture to the Redskins’ radio announcers Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff just so I didn't have to listen to Maas. But, I disagree with the thread starter on why he sucks.

The thread starter felt that Maas was biased against the Redskins. I usually have my bias antennae up and they can pick up bias from miles around even when it doesn't exist, but I didn't hear much of that from Maas Sunday. No, Bill Maas sucks because he couldn’t even figure out some of the most basic strategies in the game. For example, my thirteen year old son played organized football for the first time this year and I have been trying to teach him strategy. So, before Campbell took his first snap Sunday, I told my son that Gibbs was going to call a deep pass on the first play. “Why?” he asked, which is the best response you can get from a thirteen year old.

I said it was because Campbell never played in a regular season game before and he was going to be nervous. One of Campbell’s strengths as a quarterback was his arm strength and Gibbs would want to give him a task that would play to his strengths. Plus, I said, a simple handoff would not do as much as a deep pass to get rid of the butterflies. I said a deep pass would be better than a short one because it is less likely to be picked off, which would be a confidence shaker. And, since a deep pass is less likely to be completed, a completion would send his confidence through the roof, but an incompletion would not break it.

Gibbs = Humble/Parcells = Media Hound
And, sure enough, Gibbs called a deep pass on Campbell’s first snap. To all of those Redskins fans calling for Gibbs’ head, all I can say is this: You do not give him the credit he deserves for the things he does to help this team. And, Gibbs is too humble to take credit for himself, so you will never hear the “look at me” stuff you hear from other NFL coaches like Bill Parcells. Gibbs would be mortified to read an interview in the middle of the season where Gibbs discussed his strategy against specific football teams like the interview Parcells gave to the New York Times Magazine in October. Calling that deep pass on the first play of the game is another example of the hundreds of positive things that Gibbs does that you will never hear a peep about unless you figure it out for yourself. All Bill Maas told us was that it was a good call because everyone expected a run on the first play.

The Pass
And, oh, was that pass a beauty. Brandon Lloyd beat single coverage down the left sideline and was ahead of the defender by about a yard. Campbell threw the ball fifty-eight yards in the air with little effort. He put just the right amount of arc on it and hit Lloyd in full stride right on the hands about chest high. We can only imagine what the rest of the day would have looked like if Lloyd had held on to it.

Carlos Rogers
Speaking of holding on to passed balls, what is up with Carlos Rogers? Last year his dropped interception cost them an easy touchdown against Seattle and a date to play in the NFC Championship game. This year he has already dropped about five passes that hit him in the hands including one at the goal line on Sunday. Last year, the drops were ignored because it was his rookie year. Now he has to start playing like he has digits at the end of his wrists.

The Defense
Speaking of defense, has the Redskins defense fallen off a cliff or what? It makes little sense. The Springs injury hurt them early and MVP Griffin’s sporadic absences didn’t help, (neither did losing Marshall and Rogers and Washington and Salave’a and Daniels and …you get the idea), but they have had the starters on the field for the last three games. I thought they did a great job against the Cowboys when they finally had all eleven starters on the field for the first time, and I expected them to step it up against Philly, get a win and get back in the hunt. But, they have regressed in the last two games. Is it simply a matter of having lost the will, or is it something else?

The Future of the NFC East
Finally, I have to admit something, Skins fans. I was sure the Redskins were doing the right thing by keeping Brunnell in there while they still had a shot at a title because young quarterbacks rarely win consistently enough to win titles, and I still believe that is true. But, deep down I was very concerned about future NFC East races. I saw Eli Manning getting his shot and I envisioned him, with his pedigree, evolving into the best quarterback in the NFC East over the next few years, which would have made it difficult for the Redskins. A few weeks ago I saw Romo get his shot and do well and thought he might keep the Cowboys ahead of the Skins for a couple of years. And, McNabb is still young and will be a leader on the Eagles for several more years. I thought the Redskins would have an uphill battle for at least two or three years while Campbell developed. Now, I’m not so sure.

Eli Manning might not become the quarterback that I worried he would. The guy has an unbelievable genetic makeup, so how the hell is he still making mechanical mistakes when he has thirty-three starts under his belt? Didn’t his dad or brother teach him this stuff in the backyard? Occasionally a pro will develop a bad habit that he has to break, but that is usually after they had already worked out all of their mechanical flaws in college. But, it seems that Manning has never gotten it right. When I heard earlier this year that he consulted his college coach who said his mechanics sucked, I thought: How could that be? He’s a friggin’ Manning? And, in the Bears and Jaguars games, the announcers kept highlighting his mechanical flaws which led to poorly thrown balls.

Romo looks like the real deal, but I think Campbell is too. I know Campbell has only played one game, and will probably look bad in a game or two this season, but he showed me that he understands the important things like taking care of the ball. He showed he is a competitor who has a nose for the end zone. In short, he is only two games behind Romo and may already be ahead of Manning. The future looks a little brighter for the Redskins today.


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