For now, ‘well enough’ is good enough

Posted Oct 28, 2013

Senior Editor Vic Carucci says the fact Jason Campbell played well enough to allow the Browns to push the Chiefs to the brink is an encouraging sign for the rest of the season.

Jason Campbell needed only his first start at quarterback for the Browns to show how much of a difference-maker he could be for their offense.

And it wasn’t a matter of Campbell playing exceptionally well from start to finish in Sunday’s 23-17 loss at Kansas City, because he didn’t.

He simply played well enough. In completing 22 of 36 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns, without throwing an interception, Campbell was generally effective and efficient. His greatest qualities were minimizing mistakes while maximizing the confidence of the rest of the squad.

When you come right down to it, well enough was good enough for the Browns to be competitive until the very end against the NFL’s only unbeaten team. Well enough could have easily resulted in a victory had there not been some major mistakes by others, to go along with the Browns’ stagnant first half overall. Well enough also can go a long way toward helping the Browns to find success through the second half of the schedule, which doesn’t appear to be quite as daunting as the first half was.

“I thought he did a great job of managing the game,” Chudzinski said of Campbell’s performance during his weekly appearance Monday on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford.” “He was able to make some plays, make some throws that really helped us. And I think his leadership helped us as well.”

This is not to suggest that anyone should take solace from the fact the Browns lost a close game that a good number of observers thought would be lopsided in the Chiefs’ favor. The fact is that the Browns have lost three games in a row, and there’s really nothing that can make that feel good.

But there is something to be said for “well enough” at the quarterback position on this team.

Well enough is what allowed the Browns to win the two games Brian Hoyer started at quarterback, against Minnesota and Cincinnati. For that matter, well enough is ultimately what gave the Browns their victory against the Buffalo Bills after Hoyer made an early exit with a season-ending knee injury and Brandon Weeden took over. After a slow start, Weeden did actually play well enough that night. It was his failure to do so consistently, while showing promise that he could develop into a top-flight player along the way, that cost him his starting job less than a season-and-a-half after the Browns made him a first-round draft pick.

Well enough works when you have some game-breaking targets, such as wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron, and a defense that has played as well as the Browns’ has for much of the season.

The Browns obviously want better at quarterback. They will pursue better in next year’s draft.

And you have to think that they’ll recognize it when they see it, because – although it is a very limited sampling – the quarterback judgments of the team’s decision-makers look pretty good so far.

After all, the people running that draft are the same people who signed Hoyer and Campbell. Yes, they also went along with the plan to make Weeden the starter at the beginning of this season. Yes, it took his thumb injury to open the door for Hoyer and it took Weeden’s horrendous second half against Detroit followed by a terrible game at Green Bay to give Campbell his shot against Kansas City.

But the fact is that Hoyer and Campbell are here and they’ve given the Browns the best quarterbacking they’ve had all season.

Campbell’s nine years of experience served him extremely well in ultra-noisy Arrowhead Stadium. He showed great poise and immediately established himself as a commanding presence.

His offensive line did a tremendous job of keeping him protected against the NFL’s leading sack team, but Campbell’s superb pocket awareness, decision-making, and quick delivery did plenty to help in that area.

“He did what I thought he would do in a lot of respects,” Chudzinski said. “(But) you never know until a guy gets into a game, in terms of some of the communication/efficiency things. Being on the road and being in a place like Arrowhead, being super load, you never know how exactly how those are going to go, and I think he did a really outstanding job with that.”

Campbell’s teammates clearly recognized as much. There was little doubt that they were inspired by having him as their quarterback.

After that first-half malaise, you could see the higher level of energy on both sides of the ball as the rest of the players began to believe that they had a chance with Campbell.

“You look at his experience and the success he’s had in this league, the way he carries himself, he has a really good presence and demeanor with the younger guys,” Chudzinski said. “And he has done a lot, in the course of the last few months, to help some of those younger guys out. He does things after practice and so forth. So I think there are a lot of things that go into it, and the guys responded to him.”

What Campbell did was closer to good than great. What he did was perform well enough.

And, for the Browns, performing well enough at quarterback is good enough, at least for the balance of this season.

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