After Bears quarterback Jay Cutler went down with a concussion, in stepped high-priced veteran backup Jason Campbell to relax the fears of Bears fans. Campbell's signing in the off-season was seen as a major upgrade over Caleb Hanie but instead Campbell struggled nearly as much as Hanie did in relief of Cutler.
Jason Campbell's struggles were all together far too predictable and it's something that myself and Jeremy Stoltz of BearReport.com covered consistently on our podcast during training camp. He earned the nickname Checkdown Charlie based on everything he did in the preseason. Rather than push the ball down the field, Campbell would constantly take the check down option. Jeremy specifically reported after the Week 3 pre-season game:
I’ve said it before so I’ll try not to beat a dead horse but Jason Campbell worries me. He constantly checks down and when he does throw deep, he’s usually off target. He’s not going to kill the offense if called into duty but the team will need to consistently execute drives of 10 or more plays if they want to score points with Campbell under center.
This was in practice and not up against a real defense in game situations that Campbell would constantly chicken out of going down the field. He honestly looked scared throughout training camp and at no point did he practice or play better than Josh McCown. McCown throughout practice and camp played far better than Campbell, but due to the price tag and youth and experience and reputation Campbell came with, he won the job.
Campbell had absolutely business being named the starter, and yet the Bears went with him anyway. As a result he experienced the expected pathetic effort against the Houston Texans. Campbell's check down habit was even maddening for color man Chris Collinsworth who lit into Campbell for taking a check down rather than taking a shot at a wide open Brandon Marshall which could have gotten the Bears a first down in the fourth quarter.
"The protection was perfect Al, and he missed an opportunity "you have Brandon Marshall down the field here, Kareem Jackson is going to fall down on the coverage or get knocked down. And he still had time there was no body around Jason Campbell. He had time to read this one out he did not have to check this one down. They had their opportunity for the first down on that play." said Collinsworth.
As the All-22 tape of this play shows, the defender does in fact fall down (yellow oval) and Marshall is then wide open with plenty of protection in the pocket for Jason Campbell. This is precisely the reason why I'm afraid of Campbell continuing to be the Bears' backup QB and potential starter this week against the 49ers.
The question is what happens next if Cutler misses time? The Bears did go out and resign veteran Josh McCown, but that figures to be a move that is insurance for Campbell rather than a move to replace the veteran. We don't know how bad Cutler's concussion is, the only indication was from Lovie Smith during his post game press conference.
"“We’re hopeful, (to have Cutler available for the 49ers) but you can’t go that far. We just know he had symptoms, which started clearing up after the half. Smith said.
While there is no reason to panic, there is absolute cause for concern surrounding the habits Campbell has shown in his short tenure in Chicago. What we saw in training camp and the preseason carried over into the game against the Texans. This was not a hard evaluation call to make regarding Campbell, it's been out there for everyone to see from the beginning of training camp. The question is why haven't the Bears seen what we've seen?