When Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell was pulled during last week's loss to Kansas City, there were resounding sentiments of "about time" by many of the Redskins' faithful. He's going to start Monday against Philadelphia, but now that he's on a short plank there are questions as to how he will respond.
Al Borges, Campbell's former offensive coordinator at Auburn, and the man who helped turn Campbell from a talented, but inconsistent, underclassman into a first-round draft pick, said toying with Campbell's insecurities is not the way to deal with him if you want him to be productive.
This could get even more interesting.
"So much of getting Jason to play well was just trying to work with him from the neck up," said Borges, now the offensive coordinator at San Diego State. "We worked fundamentals and all that but just trying to get his psyche right, to convince him that he was a good player, the player people thought he could be, was how we got so much out of him."
Borges said he hasn't seen Campbell play this season and he hasn't spoken to him for months. However, he knows the introverted Campbell functions best when he's confident and when he has a running game to ease the pressure on him. He also said Campbell needs support from his coaches, which coach Jim Zorn seemingly gave him until he benched him against the Chiefs.
"He has to know that you believe in him," Borges said. "When I got him after two years there, he was pretty beat up mentally. He played 'concerned.' Not scared, but he played like he was afraid to make a mistake, so he didn't play well. We had to get him to take a 'let-it-rip' mentality. If he made a mistake, I took the blame. Bad play call. Once he realized we believed in him, he played to his capability. He did whatever we told him to. We told him not to do certain things, he didn't do them.
"Ninety percent of teaching is believing in the pupil and him knowing you believe in him. He believed that we believed in him."
Zorn was desperate when he benched Campbell but he had to do something, knowing his job security grew dimmer with each non-first down. Now Zorn's been stripped of his play-calling duties and Sherman Lewis, who has far less history with Campbell, will be calling plays for the rest of the season. Whether Campbell will be executing them that long is up to Campbell.
People close to him say that he is ultra competitive and won't back down from adversity. However, he hasn't stepped up like some people expected after the Redskins challenged him by trying to trade for his replacement twice this offseason. Now the big question surrounding Campbell could be whether he has the backbone to be an NFL quarterback. He's gone through a lot, but so have Donovan McNabb, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Jake Delhomme and countless others.
There also have been arguments made that Campbell isn't the prototypical quarterback for Zorn's West Coast system. Interestingly, Campbell has his highest completion rate of his career (65.6 percent, 107 of 163), and his 7.3 yards per completion also is a high. But he's thrown six interceptions to his six touchdowns and the identity of the offense is non-existent, which could be why Zorn will be watching someone else call plays starting Monday night.
Borges isn't buying that Campbell can't run the scheme because the West Coast system is what he ran at Auburn when Campbell blossomed. However, Borges said he tweaked the offense to take advantage of the powerful run game and Campbell's big arm. So, instead of dinking and dunking horizontally and relying on timing and receivers to make yards after the reception, Borges implemented more play-action and vertical passing.
"As much as we threw that underneath stuff, we could get it downfield," Borges said. "He could make all the throws; short, intermediate, deep. When he played in 2004, he played lights out. This kid threw almost 70 percent of his passes complete. What's phenomenal about it, his completions were over 10 yards an attempt. That's just not done. He's accurate. Matt Leinart won the Heisman at a 66 percent completion rate with a lower yards-per-catch."
Campbell is a free agent when the season ends. Right now, there might not be a market for him as a starter. He's in a tough spot, playing for a team on wobbly knees with a guy he barely knows running the offense.
"I don't know much about much these days, but I know that young man," Borges said. "I make sure not to get too close to my players, but I got closer to him than just about anyone I've coached because of the type of young man and the type of player that he is."
Getting chillier in Minnesota
Discussions have taken place between the Vikings and coach Brad Childress about extending his contract, according to a person with knowledge of the development. Minnesota was said to be "open" to adding more years on Childress' deal, which expires after the 2010 season. However, the talks have not been serious, although it appears things are headed that way soon.
It's interesting how Childress is viewed now that the Vikings are 6-0 and his gamble on quarterback Brett Favre is paying off, thus far. Just a few months ago, Childress was feeling a little heat for going back-and-forth with Favre and being the mean guy stepping on the feelings of quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels.
Gonzalez's hidden value
Defenses clearly have made stopping running back Michael Turner their focus when playing the Falcons. Turner (353 yards on 100 carries) is struggling to get going this season, although he does have six touchdowns. He told me it's frustrating, but Atlanta has to take advantage of its other options. While the Falcons have used other offensive options, Turner might be catching a break soon if the Falcons are able to capitalize on something that surfaced in their 21-14 win over Chicago on Sunday.
On Atlanta's game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, tight end Tony Gonzalez caught two passes on third-and-six and second-and-nine in the middle of the field for a combined 31 yards and two first downs. His second catch moved the Falcons to Chicago's five. Gonzalez already had a touchdown catch and again seemed to be the apple of quarterback Matt Ryan's eye.
A Falcons assistant told me the offensive coaches noticed the Bears' defenders getting pre-occupied with Gonzalez. So, despite calling a running play for Turner and having Gonzalez block, Atlanta lined up in a formation it used earlier in the game and Gonzalez was instructed to release for a pass. When he did, the defense flowed to him, taking potential tacklers out of Turner's way as he rushed for the go-ahead five-yard score.
Who did the Rams tick off?
Winless St. Louis already has a talent-strained roster that got a link weaker with the trade of linebacker Will Witherspoon to Philadelphia. They also play one of the toughest schedules in the NFL, with the Colts -- coming off a bye -- up next. Making things tougher, Indy safety Bob Sanders, who has been out all season with a knee injury, could make his debut.
Players to watch
While a pretty big deal was made of Chargers coach Norv Turner pulling Tomlinson in a goal-line situation in the loss to Denver on Monday night, L.T. quietly had 100 combined yards rushing (70) and receiving (30). The Chiefs have allowed two 100-yard rushers, two others to get close, and they rank 25th against the run.
So, Tomlinson could either show us he's back or that the wear and tear that seems to have surfaced is for real.
Merriman, meanwhile, won't be facing Ryan Clady this week. Kansas City has allowed 22 sacks so far, although it has played a gauntlet of stout defenses and strong pass rushers. Merriman's detractors are growing and his value is slipping with each sackless game.
Here are my picks for Week 7: Packers, Texans, Colts, Patriots (could another 59-0 type rout be in order vs. Tampa Bay in London? Bloody good show), Steelers, Panthers (Carolina gets to .500), Jets, Bengals, Falcons, Saints, Giants and Eagles.
Upset of the week
Haley's Comets over the Bolts at Arrowhead. Kansas City is getting better. It's hard to say that about San Diego.