The task at hand for Jason Campbell was simple: Just be average.
After four starts by Brandon Weeden, the Cleveland Browns witnessed what not to do as a quarterback in the NFL. Weeden never truly looked comfortable this season. He locked onto receivers. He held onto the ball too long. He didn’t go through his progressions. He turned the ball over. He was bad.
On Sunday, Campbell didn’t do any of those things.
He didn’t single-handily win the game, but didn’t he lose it, either. The latter was on Davone Bess’ inability to catch a punt.
Campbell was simply average
For the first time since the Thursday night game against the Buffalo Bills, the Browns played in an entertaining game. And at least part of the thanks can be directed to Campbell.
Campbell stood tall in the pocket. He’s a big dude at 6-foot-5, so that’s easy. But he didn’t panic when the pocket collapsed. Most importantly, he showed pocket awareness. He was able to break free and make some plays with his arms and legs whereas Weeden would have been eating grass.
Campbell’s performance doesn’t put to rest the Browns search for its franchise quarterback, which is now at 20 players long. It could help these final eight games become somewhat enjoyable to watch.
Campbell did everything Brian Hoyer was doing before his ACL injury. The only difference is Hoyer made plays when the Browns needed it to win the game.
Campbell’s not going to be that guy. He will make some nice throws, he will look to get Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron involved and he will do enough to make the offense respectable.
He finished 22-for-36 passing for 293 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. You can’t argue with those numbers. Average-to-above average is just good enough to make the Browns competitive.
What the Browns can’t do is allow a team to convert third down after third down or turn the ball over in special teams.
In the second half, the Browns played even with the undefeated, and at times better than, the Chiefs. If Bess catches that punt, the Browns are in prime position to take the lead.
At 3-5, a playoff berth is a pipe dream, but if this team is going to build momentum with this regime heading into the offseason and next season, more games like this will be needed. In fact, the Browns may actually win some of these final eight games and improve on what is beginning to become a perennial five-win season.
Hey, they do still have two games against the hapless Steelers.
A rookie quarterback is in the cards this May for the Browns. So, too, is Hoyer. It could create a good problem to have entering next season.
For this season, the problem of ineptitude at the quarterback position may have been sidelined with Weeden and the insertion of Campbell.
And that should make these final eight Browns Sundays a little easier to bear.