It seems that the Browns got someone they didn't bargain for when they signed quarterback Jason Campbell during the offseason.
That's a good thing.
Campbell has been more than anyone in the organization could have envisioned last March. The best thing is that he's been the ultimate pro, even when Brandon Weeden won the starting job out of training camp and when Brian Hoyer was named the starter after Weeden suffered a wrist injury.
Once given a chance following coach Rob Chudzinski's demotion of Weeden after his return from the injury, Campbell has shown an ability to spark the offense and make plays at critical times. Better yet, his performance last Sunday while dealing with bruised ribs showed a toughness that wasn't known watching him from afar during his stints with the Redskins, Raiders and Bears.
Campbell is now one of Chudzinski's best friends. His strong showing in a 24-18 win over the Ravens gives the Browns a 4-5 record and puts them in legitimate contention for the AFC North Division title.
"He played really well," Chudzinski said. "You look at what he was able to do, moving around and extending plays. On fourth downs he was huge. He made great throws and great plays in critical situations. You saw him from a leadership standpoint. The calmness out there and the ability on that final drive to make plays when it was crunch time to win the game."
Campbell, as it turns out, was an ideal addition by the front office, even though his arrival was greeted with a collective yawn by the media and fan base. Most people saw a 31-year-old on the back side of an average career.
What Chudzinski is getting is a productive player who added a lift at a time when all seemed lost with Weeden behind center. He's made the offensive linemen happier because of a quicker release than Weeden, and the receivers like his penchant to trust them in tight-coverage situations.
The media is getting a player who brings a new dimension to press conferences. He was in total control of his post-game presser last Sunday. He joked about being an old guy and needing assistance getting up after being leveled following a fourth-down pass to Davone Bess that generated a critical first down late in the game.
As for the intended receiver on that play, Campbell couldn't remember. "I don't know if I even called it right, first of all," he said.
Campbell seems to be enjoying the ride with the fourth team he's played for in his nine NFL seasons. Perhaps the stage that he's reached in his career has made him more appreciative of still being called on.
"I think as time goes on you come to appreciate the opportunities you get and you learn from experience how you will be better, whether you're a player like Jason or a coach like me," Chudzinski said. "You always want to do better the next time you get that opportunity. I think he's done that."
Campbell had every right to be upset about being passed over three times this season - twice for Weeden and once for Hoyer. Campbell admitted that he fully expected to be named the starter on the flight home from Baltimore after Weeden was hurt in a game against the Ravens.
Instead of pouting or sounding off to the media, Campbell took it all in stride. It was almost as if he was secure in his role as a backup, knowing that he could ride that gig and make a lot more money for several more seasons.
As fate would have it, Campbell wasn't satisfied. He's seized the starting opportunity like a rookie being given a first chance. There are no assurances it will last beyond this season, but no one is thinking about the long-term future at this time.
"Jason has played more than any of our guys (quarterbacks)," Chudzinski said. "You see it during the week; him knowing what to expect and the questions he's asked. When he gets out on the field, he's been there before. That sense of confidence that the guys and I have in him and he has in himself that he's done it before."
Now Campbell has to show he can keep it going.