At the season's outset, the Cleveland Browns' quarterback depth chart read: Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer. Weeden will have to sit out of Week 3's game with a hand injury, and coach Rob Chudzinski has decided to skip Campbell on the depth chart and go right down to No. 3.
Perhaps Chudzinski, with the benefit of a greater perspective, sees something in Hoyer we do not, or feels he would fit better in the Browns' system (a real possibility, since they just traded away their top-tier running back because he "wasn't a fit"). Regardless, this is what you should know about Brian Hoyer.
- Since his college days, Hoyer has arguably gained highest public exposure as Tom Brady's backup in a couple of Madden games. If Brady is hurt, Hoyer steps in, throws rainbow passes to targets eight yards away, and is intercepted seven times per game.
- Hoyer was not drafted.
- Hoyer is 28 years old, and has one career start.
Concerning those last two items: Since 1980, Sunday will be the first time an undrafted guy, age 28 or over, with no more than one game started in his career, will actually win the starter's role over another guy. The only other time such a player started came in 1994, when Jason Garrett started. (After injuries to Troy Aikman and Rodney Peete, Garrett was literally the only quarterback left on the roster, so he had nobody to beat out.)
So what does this say? Without words, but explicitly, and unmistakably?
NOBODY WANTS YOU, JASON CAMPBELL.
I'm completely ready to admit that I have not scouted 2013 Jason Campbell. Maybe his quarterbacking ability really has deteriorated from "deserving starter" to "not as good as Brian Hoyer" over the last two years. Even if it has, his on-field performance never did, and the manner in which he lost his starting role is historic.
The term "game manager" is used, often pejoratively, to describe a quarterback who performs just well enough to avoid losing. He's there to take advantage of opportunities as they arise and avoid making costly mistakes.
His names are Trent Dilfer, Alex Smith and Neil O'Donnell. He isn't a big-play guy, but neither is he inconsistent like a Jake Plummer, or outright bad like a Mark Sanchez. His name lives on as a trivial curiosity that's checked for laughs. He is the President that Little Pete shoves up his nose.
Jason Campbell is absolutely a game manager, having maintained a career passer rating that is almost the exact statistical definition of "average." That isn't an aggregate of inconsistent play, but the humble reward for taking care of the football.
Throughout his career, statistically speaking, Campbell has been a perfectly average quarterback. His career Interception Percentage Index -- a higher-is-better stat that assesses a quarterback's proneness for throwing interceptions -- is among the highest since 1980. At 109, it's higher than John Elway's, Troy Aikman's and even Peyton Manning's.
In terms of passer rating, Campbell is just about right there in the middle.
When given the chance to start, Campbell was by no means a Great Quarterback, but he was certainly one with whom a team could win. Every year, there is a considerable handful of NFL teams who would kill for a quarterback like this, but curiously enough, not this quarterback. Even as a starter, his teams were constantly trying to replace him.
In 2008, Campbell started all 16 games for the Redskins and finished with an above-average passer rating index of 102. Washington responded by trying to acquire Mark Sanchez, then Jay Cutler. When they couldn't, Campbell remained the starter in 2009 and slightly improved his passer rating to 104. Apparently, and strangely, the Redskins had seen enough. They acquired an aging Donovan McNabb and dealt Campbell to the Raiders.
In his first year and a half with Oakland, Campbell's numbers remained just slightly above the league average. Then he broke his collarbone, and the Raiders proved just as eager to shoo him out. They immediately signed Carson Palmer, and Campbell -- whose numbers never regressed -- hasn't started since.
I wondered whether this had really happened before, so I found a sample of 13 quarterbacks since 1980 who had lost their starting roles at or around the age of 30. I decided not to include guys like Randall Cunningham, whose injuries significantly compromised his playing ability. I also omitted guys like Jeff George (who got in an infamous screaming match with his coach) and Bernie Kosar (who lost his job after ignoring his coach and calling his own plays).
Here's what I found.
Of those 13 quarterbacks, Scott Mitchell is the only one with above-average numbers over his last three seasons as a starter. If there is an explanation for Campbell's inability to find a starting job, we certainly can't find it in the stats.
I'm also pretty sure we can't find it in the "character issues" department.
Campbell was asked if he’s frustrated that Chudzinski wouldn’t commit to him even though he is listed as Weeden’s primary backup.
"We’re all on the same team," said Campbell, who’s in his ninth NFL season. "Whatever the situation is, you have to be a pro, and that’s how I approach it. There’s things that you can’t control, things that you can. In these situations, you be supportive as much as possible. We don’t know what’s the status of Weeden yet. Also, I don’t know the status of my own position just yet. So the only thing I can do is just keep preparing and just trying to stay focused as best as possible and not worry about those things."
I hope Campbell gets another shot to start at some point ... and as much as I'm lamenting all this, maybe it's for the best that he doesn't come back this way, in this game. The Browns' receiving corps is hardly stellar, and their remaining running backs figure to be vastly incapable of establishing any kind of running game.
It's gonna be terrible. I also consider it to be must-watch television, not because I harbor any ill will toward Brian Hoyer, but because Sunday's game could very well be historically bad. We'll watch it for the same reason we gather to watch firefighters intentionally burn down a bankrupted family buffet to get some practice in: It looks neat, and their pizza sucked anyway.
Just don't ever forget: Brian Hoyer leapfrogged a healthy, 31-year-old Jason Campbell on the depth chart. The universe communicates not through words, but through turns of events, and this is how it says, "f*** you."