This week we have two quarterbacks meeting who have faced very different stories since they entered the NFL draft. While I am not a story teller, I find the careers of Jason Campbell and Kyle Orton interestingly intertwined. So if you will humor me and put up with my writing, I'd like to take a trip back to 2005 all the way to this next Sunday.
Kyle Orton - Jason Campbell, connected by their draft positions, their teams and coaches, and by their differences. Two quarterbacks who were taken in the same draft, rounds apart, but who have had careers, and styles that vary greatly.
On draft day 2005...
Jason Campbell was selected with the 25th pick, a round earlier than almost everyone expected, but due to two quarterbacks, Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers, being taken earlier in the round, Washington took a chance and reached slightly to select Campbell, not trusting any other mid round quarterbacks. Jason came into Washington with legendary coach Joe Gibbs, who had just come off an up and down 2004 season, but trusted, and rightly so, on the veteran arm of Mark Brunell. The Redskins went 10-6 Campbell's rookie year, and in 2006 he got his chance to start, but despite some decent play by Jason, the Redskins still finished 2-5.
Just three rounds after Campbell was celebrating his draft selection in 2005, the Bears wanted to add depth at quarterback to backup their recent 2004 1st round selection, Rex Grossman. Head Coach Lovie Smith looked at 2005 as the season the Bears could see what Rex could do, relying on a solid group of wide receivers and running backs, and one of the top defenses in the NFL. But an early Grossman injury caused a very unprepared Kyle Orton to start.
In preparation for the 2005 draft, Jason Campbell was seen as 2nd round pick, a solid quarterback who had potential to start. Prior to the draft, Washington had expressed interest in Campbell, but due to Smith and Rodgers being taken, the Redskins felt they couldn't risk teams like the Raiders, Cowboys, or Vikings. Scouts liked a lot about Campbell:
- Does a nice job of carrying out fakes and has a quick, high release with the strength to get the ball downfield
- Does a good job maneuvering when forced out of the pocket
- His natural athletic skills are what makes him an intriguing prospect
His biggest downside was decision making and polish, but was considered solid.
Kyle Orton was another player expected to be taken in the 2nd or 3rd round, but dropped rapidly on draft day, falling to the 4th round, being taken 106th overall by the Chicago Bears, and was the 7th quarterback taken. Orton, unlike Campbell, was seen as a depth player, solid upside, but, as CBS Sports said, he's "not a blue chip prospect, but gets the most out of his blue collar ability to provide good depth on a pro roster." Scouts who looked at Orton saw some quality strengths:
- Intelligent and instinctive signal caller
- Good athlete with solid arm strength
- Incredibly tough
Weaknesses were enough though to hold GM's back from drafting him. Lacks impressive arm strength, impatient under pressure and isn't a physical specimen.
Since that draft day, Campbell has outplayed 1st round pick Alex Smith, and Orton has easily outplayed every other quarterback taken in that draft, outside of Campbell and Rodgers.
These two men have seen careers that none would call bad or good, rather they fit the bill of "journeyman" quarterbacks. Since 2005, Orton slowly earned the starting job in Chicago, riding a simple passing offense, and a strong running game and a top tier defense. Ending his career with a strong record, but was considered a toss in with the Cutler trade. Since arriving in Denver, Orton has won the starting quarterback job each season, and was one of the few survivors of the McDaniel's firing. His performance in 2011 could be the most important of his career, and determine if gets the long term contract he's sought his whole career.
Jason Campbell has been the picture of inconsistency, as has his team's situation. He was anointed the starter in Washington, but after the coach who drafted him moved on, he and new coach Jim Zorn never were able to succeed. Add in Jason Campbell has had a different offensive coordinator, you get a recipe for a quarterback that will be moving on, and that's exactly what the Redskins did after they fired struggling coach Zorn, and replaced him with former Denver Bronco coach, Mike Shanahan. Campbell ended up in Oakland, and saw himself named the starter, injured, replaced, then named starter again. Like Orton, 2011 is a year that will define Campbell's career, because if he struggles, Oakland, and Al Davis, have no problem replacing him.
These quarterbacks have faced each other twice, one Orton went down with an injury after one of the best 1st half's by a Bronco quarterback, only to see the game lost in the 2nd half. Campbell played a very average game, but turned up the heat in the 2nd half against a piss-poor Broncos offense and a defeated looking defense. The second game was the opposite, Orton was healthy the whole game, but the team produced one of the worst efforts in Bronco history. Campbell again wasn't special, but that was enough due to unbelievably bad play by the Broncos.
Because of This...
This week 1 game could be the most important game of both of these men's careers. Campbell has been pulled already in Oakland, and struggling out of the games isn't a good way to get out of the gates. Struggle early, and Campbell, and his confidence and career, could go down the drain. This game is just as important to Orton, and the Bronco fans, for their need to avenge their disappointing loss from last season. With low support from the fan base, and a certain quarterback named Tim Tebow waiting in the wings.
These two quarterbacks have seen change, new teams, new offenses, seen their fortunes rise and sink, and now are both fighting to not be forgotten as "journeyman." While most of the NFL will overlook this game as two low end teams, but for Orton and Campbell, this game means everything, and you can better believe both of these guys will do everything they can to be ready for this game.
Now I don't know about you, but this story line is one I'm looking forward to playing out.