Eleventh in a series analyzing Raiders issues and questions heading into training camp with players reporting Tuesday and the first practice on Thursday:
Is Jason Campbell the answer for the Raiders at quarterback?
Oakland is a tough town for quarterbacks.
The only one who got a free pass was the beloved Ken Stabler. When Stabler was the backup, Daryle Lamonica was booed so fiercely the Raiders began introducing their defense for home games. Fans cheered for backup Jim Plunkett even as Dan Pastorini twisted on the ground in pain with a broken leg.
Kerry Collins once stood at the line of scrimmage and urged the home fans to “bring it on.” Josh McCown seemed surprised he was disliked so quickly. Rich Gannon delivered three straight division titles and an AFC title and in some circles was barely tolerated before being Public Enemy No. 1 after throwing five interceptions in the Super Bowl.
Campbell is about to begin a honeymoon period unlike any other Raiders quarterback for obvious reasons. He replaced JaMarcus Russell, who in his short time in Oakland may be the most unpopular player among the home fans in the history of the franchise.
Simply because he’s not Russell, Campbell will be given the benefit of the doubt and initially will be a fan favorite. That’ll last as long as it takes for him to fumble a snap or force one into coverage for an interception during the preseason.
Campbell has been programmed and reprogramed virtually every season, his career a revolving door of offensive coordinators and systems dating back to his days at Auburn.
Considering the constant change, Campbell’s touchdown pass-to-interception ratio (55-to-38) is pretty good, with his worst quality being that he’s taken too many sacks (81 in the past two seasons).
Campbell has been through so much change it’s impossible to know at this point how good he is. He’s in a situation similar to Alex Smith across the bay, someone who you would like to see in a system for more than a year before determining whether he can win in the NFL.
Almost everything in the offseason was encouraging. Campbell flew to Oakland immediately upon being traded, meeting with new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and immersing himself in another new system.
During minicamps and organized team activities, although coach Tom Cable proclaimed the position a “competition,” Campbell got most of the work (Bruce Gradkowski was out with a torn pectoral muscle) and was immediate upgrade over Russell.
From what I’d seen of Campbell with Washington, and looking at his sack numbers, he was more mobile and athletic than I’d anticipated. Without going into specifics (one of those unwritten rules about watching practice), Jackson has some interesting ideas which include getting Campbell on the perimeter. He’ not a stationary dropback passer along the lines of Kerry Collins.
There was a push in some circles for the Raiders to get Donovan McNabb from Washington, but Campbell is much younger and hasn’t had the benefit of being in the same system as McNabb was. Acquiring him for a fourth-round pick after McNabb went to Washington could deflect some of the grief Davis is getting for insisting Russell was “great.”
The Raiders finished 10th in the NFL in passing in 2005 with 21 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions _ not sensational, but not embarrassing either. From 2006 through 2009, the Raiders were 31st, 31st, 32nd and 29th in passing offense with 47 touchdown passes, 73 interceptions and a staggering 201 sacks allowed in 64 games.
Can Campbell help?
How can he not?
Whether Campbell can be more than a temporary solution will begin to play itself out starting Thursday.
For now, he’s not Russell, and that’s enough.
Previous camp questions: