What To Expect When Jason Campbell Starts For Cleveland Browns

By Dick Primo
Jason Campbell
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll give it to the coaching staff of the Cleveland Browns — they’re not afraid to do what they think is best, even if it’s not safe.

They skipped NFL protocol in Week 3 when they named third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer as the starter for injured Brandon Weeden over veteran and second-string quarterback Jason Campbell. To everyone, this move was a sign that they were giving up on the season. All the Browns did was win three in a row.

That third win came with Weeden at the helm for most of the game. That also was the last game the team won, as Weeden has looked awful under center the past two. Should they make Campbell the new starter? Yes. Did I think they would do it this week? No. Their egos were at risk.

What happens if they name Campbell the starter and then he goes out and plays terribly? He did come on in relief of Weeden against the Baltimore Ravens and looked bad. He finished that game throwing 1-of-4 for six yards. Maybe that’s what helped head coach Rob Chudzinski name Hoyer the starter over Campbell. The Cleveland media has grumbled that the Browns don’t much care for Campbell.

It seemed almost logical that the thing to do Sunday, while they’re on the road, is to start Weeden. If he is bad — which seemed likely to happen — then they sub in Campbell. Then if he is bad, they have an out on him not getting the first-team reps, and then it’s one more start before the bye week. That seems like the safest play.

But the Browns did not do the safe play. Instead, they announced on Wednesday that Campbell would be the starter for Sunday’s game against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.

This is one time when I truly believe a coaching staff when they say, “He gives us the best chance to win.” Campbell can prepare as the starter, take the snaps with the starters and put the Browns in the best position to pull off an upset victory. It doesn’t mean that they will, but they’re obviously going for it.

So what can we expect from Campbell? At best, an efficient game. He’s not going to come in and go all Aaron Rodgers. He’ll complete about 60 percent of his passes, and he’ll finish the game with a passer rating in the high-80s, low-90s. That’s the best the team can hope for.

At worst, he will play a lot like Weeden: take sacks, overthrow receivers and help the offense go three-and-out again and again. I think he’s most likely to perform more towards “at worst” than “at best”.  He’s at a disadvantage as this will be his first start since November 19, 2012, when he was sacked six times and threw two picks against the San Francisco 49ers as a member of the Chicago Bears, who lost that game 32-7. Plus, he’s Jason Campbell.

The hopefuls like to point to 2011 when he was a member of the Oakland Raiders, and that team was 3-2 before he went down in a game against his current employers. See? Campbell knows how to win! But for that season, Campbell completed 60.6 percent of his passes and had a rating of 84.2. He had six TDs and four INTs. And remember, this is the optimists’ hope for him.

Browns fans, I think the team did the right thing in starting Campbell. You can’t continue starting Weeden when he is this bad. But Campbell isn’t going to be much help. He’s not a good quarterback. He’s not a threat to go deep, and he’s not very mobile. After watching the statue that is Weeden, Campbell may look like Usain Bolt, but he’s not mobile.

Now, keep in mind that I am the same guy who predicted doom when Hoyer started, and we saw how wrong I was. I hope I will be wrong here too, but I don’t think so. I credit the coaching staff for having the guts to make the move they want and not playing it safe because they’re worried about their egos.

But will Campbell be an upgrade? I don’t really think so.

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