photo by Brian Murphy
This isn’t breaking news or anything, but Washington Redskins fans love a quarterback controversy. Always have. Always will.
If you’ve been in the D.C. area for football season, you know this.
That being said, if you’re convinced that Jason Campbell was the only reason the Redskins fell apart last season, you’re a sad cliché.
We’ve always felt Campbell was a solid quarterback. In our eyes he’s good, but not great, and with the proper tools around him, is more than capable of getting the job done. But until this point, that was more of a gut feeling than anything else. We didn’t really have any legitimate proof to back up our stance.
That all changed recently when we picked up a copy of the Football Outsiders Almanac 2009. For those not familiar, this book is one of the most ridiculously thorough resources available to fans who really want to learn about football. These guys chart and research everything. If you can dream it up, it’s probably in the book.
We openly admit that we’re homers for Campbell. But the Football Outsiders crew has no such allegiance. If the numbers showed he couldn’t get the job done, they’d have no problem saying so. Even though we’re fans of Campbell, even we were surprised at what we learned.
Here’s what Redskins fans know about last season: Campbell completed 62.3 percent of his passes, threw for 3,245 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions and had a QB rating of 84.3.
Here’s what most fans don’t know about last season (again, courtesy of Football Outsiders Almanac):
- Campbell’s receivers led the league in dropped passes with 39. We repeat – Redskins receivers dropped more passes than anyone else in football in 2008.
- Receivers Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El both ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in dropped passes. Moss ranked second with 12 (behind only Cleveland’s Braylon Edwards with 15), while Randle El was tied for ninth with nine drops.
- Running back Clinton Portis only had six drops. Compared to Moss and Randle El that seems okay, but he was actually third in the league in percentage of dropped passes (17 percent).
- Campbell was also in the top 10 in the NFL last season in passes defended with 50 – meaning if Campbell threw a “jump ball,” more times than not, the defender beat the receiver on the play.
- Campbell was sixth best in the league in percentage of overthrown passes. He overthrew his wideouts 18 times, which works out to 3.6 percent. Conversely, Derek Anderson of the Browns overthrew his receivers a league-worst nine percent of the time.
- Campbell was second best in the NFL in underthrown passes (6.4 percent), trailing only Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans (4.9 percent). It should also be noted that Campbell attempted 126 more passes than the injury-prone Schaub. Oakland’s JaMarcus Russell led the league in underthrown passes (16.5 percent).
- Campbell was fifth in the NFL in QB hits with 47, and tied for third in quarterback knockdowns with 88. In fact, Campbell got knocked down more than 16 percent of the time he dropped back to pass, which was eighth most in the league.
- In spite of all of this, Campbell was eighth in the NFL in quarterback accuracy at 85.7. This statistic factors in passes that are not thrown ahead or behind, overthrown or underthrown or out of bounds.
Now let us change gears for a minute.
In the first eight games of 2008, Portis rushed for a league-best 944 yards. He averaged five yards per carry and racked up seven touchdowns. In the second half of the season, Portis rushed for 543 yards at 3.5 yards per carry, and had just two touchdowns. Did Portis suddenly forget how to play the position? Were people calling for Ladell Betts or Rock Cartwright (the Colt Brennan of Redskins running backs) to supplant Portis as the feature back? Of course not.
Most fans understood that the offensive line was so bad down the stretch last season that, many times, Portis had to make magic happen just to get back to the line of scrimmage.
And let’s not forget, Jim Zorn told Sports Illustrated this offseason that he had to change his playing calling last year because he knew there were plays in his playbook that the offensive line simply couldn’t do their job long enough to set up.
People heard those comments and Portis got the benefit of the doubt. But because this town simply cannot help but obsess over a potential quarterback controversy, Campbell never got the same respect (even if he played behind the same putrid offensive line). Here’s how Campbell fared during the same stretch:
In the first eight games, Campbell completed 66 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,754 yards, with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions.
In the final eight games, Campbell completed 59 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,491, with five touchdowns and six interceptions.
What’s more, Campbell’s yards per pass attempt dropped from 7.6 yards the first half of the season to 5.4 yards per attempt down the stretch. That only reinforces our belief that Campbell simply didn’t have enough time to look downfield, so he routinely had to settle with check downs and dump-offs.
So, to recap, because of a substandard offensive line, Campbell faced as much pressure as any quarterback in the league. And yet, statistically speaking, he was one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL. His throws were almost always on target, but Campbell’s receivers dropped more passes than anyone else.
His offensive line failed him. His receivers failed him. And at the end of the day, fans (and even his own front office) figured it was easier to blame Campbell than to admit there are much larger problems with Washington’s offense. It makes sense though. It’s easier (and cheaper) to replace one guy rather than half the offense – even if he’s not the problem.
Our only hope is that after this season, Campbell finds himself in a city where he’s truly appreciated and is surrounded with enough talent to show critics exactly what he’s capable of. Just know that when it happens, we’ll be here saying, “Told you so.”
We’ve said our piece, now let’s open it up to Campbell haters …
August 20, 2009 at 1:46 pm
Not a hater. Jason Campbell is my favorite Redskin / NFL player. I’m dying for him to enjoy the success and respect he deserves.
Thanks for the great article, murf.
August 20, 2009 at 1:47 pm
August 20, 2009 at 1:55 pm
Brilliant. (not the same Brad, just another Brad with the same opinion)
August 20, 2009 at 2:06 pm
McFanboy, I have been saying the same thing. And now that you found facts to back me up, people will still hate on Campbell. It’s a shame because all this man does is work hard and does his best for this team. But the fans, media, and front office are to blind to realize that. Keep up the good work, this was an excellent article.
August 20, 2009 at 2:14 pm
Wow- I knew the line was really bad… but wasn’t aware that our recievers were that poor as well. I could make a case that the poor line ALSO impacted the recievers. Jason had to rush his throws, likely resulting in passes that were arriving too early. Even if they were on target, the WCO is a timing based offense and poorly timed passes could have resulted in more drops.
August 20, 2009 at 2:30 pm
This is a GREAT writeup. I would be more interested in how they define a ‘drop’ and some other terms used in the analysis, but seeing these stats makes a compelling argument as to why Campbell should be the starting QB for the Skins.
But as we know, the best way to shut people up is to perform on the field. Hopefully there’s no question after this season of whether or not Campbell is a good QB.
BTW, as a point of curiosity, I wonder how others like Orton, Cutler and Quinn compare in these numbers?
August 20, 2009 at 2:47 pm
GREAT Article. Something I said all last year and during the offseason. Now someone put numbers behind what I saw during games. Hopefully JC gets his contract extended and the Skins front office realizes that Campbell is the future of this team. He has the skill and the intestinal fortitude to bring DC a superbowl. If not some other town will be chearing him in Feb for their superbowl parade.
August 20, 2009 at 3:00 pm
You should also post the DVOA and DYAR statistics from footballoutsiders.com. You only referenced half of the stats and only the ones that make Campbell look good. In the overall analysis of passes thrown he was 16th (DYAR) and 18th (DVOA) respectively.
And if anyone decides to actually look up all of the analysis of Campbell via footballoutsiders.com you will find this bolded sentence.
“he simple version: DYAR means a quarterback with more total value. DVOA means a quarterback with more value per play.”
Campbell was in the bottom half of the league. But you left all of that out for some reason… even though the take into account drops, routes, over/underthrows etc.
August 20, 2009 at 3:27 pm
Thanks for bringing in the cool, calm, statistics. Hope to coaches and players are mending fences and will be READY TO RUMBLE this year!!!
August 20, 2009 at 4:10 pm
As we all know from the Government, statistics can be meant to show many things. This is a well researched article and although an admitted Campbell Fan (me too), you opined rather well. Is there any source for game film that is available to us “peons” who would like to relive details of a game?
August 20, 2009 at 4:55 pm
couldn’t agree more. i’ve been telling my buddies since the team fell apart at the halfway point last season that it wasn’t campbells fault. i think this year will be different. we’ll have to wait and see.
August 20, 2009 at 5:31 pm
Too bad there are no statistics for the ability to read the defense, or the ability to follow through his progression when the primary receiver is covered.
August 20, 2009 at 5:57 pm
Best Article about my QB I have ever read..Thank you so much. I am a 100% supporter of Jason Campbell and always will be. I so hope he get to see this article. He deserves to be appreciated..I had the prestige privelge to tell him that one on one. True Redskins fans want Jason Campbell.
August 20, 2009 at 6:32 pm
August 20, 2009 at 6:41 pm
Don’t have any rooting interest in the ‘Skins (even if I did, I’d be too busy watching that Santonio Holmes TD catch over and over…and over…ahhh, six Super Bowls…damn, the Pens are only halfway there), but this is good reporting. I’m pulling for JC bigtime. There’s just something likable about that guy. Here’s hoping the vastly overpaid Randle El (note which smart owners let him go and which other owner paid him bigtime cash after his Super Bowl TD heave) can hold onto more throws this year.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, yes, I’m an obnoxious ‘Burgh fan asshole, but I have the right to gloat until after next year’s Super Bowl, which the Steelers almost certainly won’t win. But damn…what a year it’s been.
August 20, 2009 at 7:58 pm
“Too bad there are no statistics for the ability to read the defense, or the ability to follow through his progression when the primary receiver is covered.”
This is accounted for in the article. Presumably if Campbell completed 62% despite all those drops, he did at least a fair job reading the defense, following progression, etc. He has room to improve in those areas, but it wouldn’t be possible to complete 62% despite all the drops if he wasn’t at least doing a fair job with reads. Granted, touchdowns were lacking, but he might have finished the year with a few more touchdowns and maybe even one or two more wins if some drives were extended by completions.
August 20, 2009 at 8:04 pm
excuses, that’s all I ever here from Campbell fans. “he’s in a new offence”, “he has a new coordinator” and while were commenting why are you throwing “jump balls” to two of the smallest recievers in the league. I will be a campbell fan when he takes the team on his back and actually wins something.Until then I’m sure it will be someone elses fault and blame everyone but him. If you want the haters to stop WIN , or we will be talking about the new coaches system Campbell has to learn next year. that is if he’s still here.
August 20, 2009 at 9:30 pm
“excuses, that’s all I ever here from Campbell fans. “he’s in a new offence”, “he has a new coordinator” and while were commenting why are you throwing “jump balls” to two of the smallest recievers in the league. I will be a campbell fan when he takes the team on his back and actually wins something.Until then I’m sure it will be someone elses fault and blame everyone but him. If you want the haters to stop WIN , or we will be talking about the new coaches system Campbell has to learn next year. that is if he’s still here”
anyone who discounts learning a new offense each year is an idiot. and we didnt have any big wide outs to throw jump balls to…so maybe that was part of the problem. and as far as carrying a team, no QB on our current roster can do that they can all make plays to help win games but very few QB’s can truly carry their teams into the playoffs (i.e. manning, brady)
August 20, 2009 at 10:42 pm
Hey Homer, like Cory (#8) wrote, you skewed the stats, to favor JC. Reveal all of the stats such as the DVOA and DYAR and you get the true picture of JC.
He’s just not that good of a QB and after this season we’ll be saying, we told you so.
If you want to play “Journalist”, then do what reputable Journalists do and write the whole story, not just the parts that advance your agenda.
August 20, 2009 at 11:01 pm
bottom line – if JC had an o-line and some better receivers the Redskins are unstoppable, unfortunately he still has neither, so i expect about the same as last season, 8-8, last in the division, i hope im wrong. either way looking forward to the season. a final note: the 12th man needs to step it up a this year, get up off your asses. i won’t be surprised if it feels like a Steelers home game on Saturday. good article. FIGHT FOR OLD DC.
August 20, 2009 at 11:05 pm
To Cory, Joseph, whoever,
I did not skew the statistics in order to have them make any point. I bought a book, read it and was shocked at just how many of them pointed to areas other than Campbell being the problem.
As far as DVOA and DYAR, 99 percent of sports fans have no clue what they are. I dedicated more than a thousand words to this and didn’t have the time or energy to crank out a thousand more just to explain them to the non-diehards.
If it makes you feel better, I’m in contact with the guys from Football Outsiders in hopes that they can sit down and talk to explain exactly what their numbers say about Campbell and the rest of the Redskins.
Of course, there’s a chance they might not agree to regurgitate my non-journalistic agenda, so maybe I should just kill that idea now …
August 21, 2009 at 12:08 am
Great read all in all. I think campbell will have a majorly improved year this year with more height in the starting wideouts (either thomas or kelly as 2nd wiedout) as well as jason having more time in the system means a better grasp and a easier time with audibles and whatnot. ignore douches like the people accusing you of stat skewing i have the same read and can attest homer is correct in his numbers.
August 21, 2009 at 5:12 am
please send this article to the Redskins FRONT OFFICE….a great read… a sensible, inciteful, football analogy TY
August 21, 2009 at 10:19 am
“It’s easier (and cheaper) to replace one guy rather than half the offense – even if he’s not the problem.”
A sadly true statement, but maybe Snyder is looking at this the wrong way….if he blows up half the offense he could always sell more merchandise. I mean, we all go to see the names on the back of the jerseys anyway.
August 21, 2009 at 12:40 pm
Couldn’t have said it better myself and you can’t hide anything behind actual statistics. Well done!!
August 21, 2009 at 6:54 pm
Impressive article. JC was a sight to behold his last year at AuburThe n. He certainly had the zip that Zorn is now looking for. Moreover, he appeared to be fearless. The entire process reminds me of what happended to Patrick Ramsey with a mediocre offensive line. His zip and fearlessness got gone in a hurry. It’s a shame what Snyder’s myopia has done to a once majestic group of men.
August 24, 2009 at 7:28 am
I’d like to find out where Matt Ryan ranked on this caliber. He too had a new offense to learn. The dropped balls are a concern, but sometimes they count those when the balls hit your back and you have gone off route because the ball has be thrown low, behind you, or early.
The intangible factor is leadership and confidence in owning the huddle. Also left out is completion beyond 15 yards where Campbell is horrific. Todd Collins owned Campbell on that one. Lets just say that there are guys who get it done regardless because they have the leadership and gamemanship capabilities to handle situations. Campbell isn’t one of them. There are those people who always do everything right, but never do the right things.
August 24, 2009 at 6:43 pm
These stats basically back up the idea that Campbell needs everything around him to go perfectly to be more than an average QB. And quite frankly, that’s not really the kind of QB that the Redskins need considering the people picking the talent around him.
The team could use a QB who can put the team on his back from time to time and win one with his arm. Something we have never seen JC do without everything else falling into place around him.
August 24, 2009 at 9:55 pm
Why is it that he couldn’t read defenses? At the beginning of the season when we were winning games, there was no problem with the reads of his plays. He was able to make great reads because the offensive line was playing well. Games are always won and lost in the trenches. That is a fact that has been here in Washington since the 80s. The Hogs were the reason that we won super bowls. As great as Riggins was, without the offensive line blocking for him, he would have been a star back, but probably not a HOF back.
The skins won super bowls with three different QBs. Why is that? The offensive line. When they played well it didn’t matter if it was Joe Theismann, Jay Schroeder, Doug Williams, or Mark Rypien most of the players on the offensive line remained in tact for the majority of Gibbs years here in Washington and were responsible for keeping those guys upright and successful.
The front office of this team for years has decided to go on the cheap for lineman in order to sell jerseys and bring in skill players instead of developing an offensive line. The reason that the Eagles have been so successful for so many years is because they continually draft OL and DL. The reason that the Redskins haven’t been as successful for the last 20 years is because they have ignored their lines and pick up players usually past their primes.
Until that way of thinking changes, we Redskins fans are going to suffer. Jason will probably go somewhere else and then succeed because he will probably go to team that will value offensive line protection. Tell Fantasy football owner Dan Snyder to start investing in protection of our QBs instead of having man crushes on QBs that don’t play on your team.
August 26, 2009 at 4:30 pm
Thank You for this information. It advocates what I’ve been saying for the last 2 years. I don’t care what QB you get, if the line doesn’t block then the QB fails and eventually the running game does too because the team puts 8 in the box. It doesn’t matter what receivers we get, it all goes back to the O line.
Skins for life!
August 26, 2009 at 4:40 pm
Matt (#29) you are absolutely 110% correct. My question is, if we can make that assessment, why can’t those pea brains that get paid all of the big bucks see the same thing? We go out and corners, safetys, and LB(s) instead of putting pressure on the QB with adequate lineman. Hell, we drafted a DE and are trying to move him to LB…hellloooo. We need to put pressure on the QB. Opposing teams have too much time and we aren’t getting sacks/turnovers to help win the game. I think that they draft more DB(s) so that when the other guys get tired of chasing receivers for 6-8 seconds, they can give them a break. lol I still luv them though, just hate their football mentality or the lack thereof.