Here are a couple of things I think about the Jaguars’ QB situation:
- I think I’m just not ready to start shoveling the dirt on David Garrard. I’ve read a lot of articles from the Jaguars blogosphere giving plenty of reasons (salary, ticket sales, etc.) why the Jaguars must get rid of him
and must start Blaine Gabbert from Day 1. I don’t get what the rush is all ab out,other than the fact that some people committed to disliking whoever is the current Jaguars’ starting QB. Every NFL expert says the Jaguars are in great situation with an established veteran signal caller and have the luxury of not throwing Gabbert into deep end right away. I agree with this observation - the former Tigers QB comes from the spread offense and he needs time to learn the pro system properly. You must earn a starting spot in the pros by performance and not because of factors, especially the quarterback. Let’s not forget the Jaguars have not one, but two QB’s already on the roster who are legit, capable starting quarterbacks (you didn’t forget about Luke McCown, did you?). The only way I would see Gabbert as opening day starter is if he undeniably beats out the two incumbents in training camp and preseason games, that is if either of those exist in 2011.
- I think money should not be an issue in the Gabbert/Garrard decison. Yes, David Garrard is due $8 million for this upcoming season. Yes, Blaine Gabbert will most likely get a huge contract this summer, even with a rookie salary cap. But the Jaguars have no salary cap issues whatsoever, with a payroll of only $80 million, which for comparison, is $30 million less than any of their AFC South rivals. They can afford to pay both QBs and still have plenty of cap space to sign one or two defensive free agents of Aaron Kampman’s caliber and maybe give Marcedes Lewis a well-deserved extention, as well. Last year demonstrated that money should NOT factor into positional depth decisions when both players are viable. There was much talk last offseason of Vince Manuwai being cut, because people argued that $3 million was too much to be paying a backup. But despite riding the bench behind Justin Smiley for the first few games, Manuwai regained his starting spot in the middle of the season and played lights-out, paving the way for the Jaguars’ dominant running game and big push to the top of the AFC South. So can we agree we’ve learned our lesson? You won’t find many people who believe that David Garrard will start beyond the end of this season, unless he somehow plays even better than he did 2007, but he’s the better choice as this year’s starter and will enable Gabbert to develop and learn about the “big picture” of being a professional quarterback. Ask reigning Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers how a prospect with great upside, but who is not considered “pro ready”, can benefit from this program.
- I think this will be the most exciting camp for quarterbacks since David Garrard overtook Byron Leftwich in the ’07 preseason. The QB battle will help the Jaguars, no matter who winds up being the opening day starter at the position – David Garrard decidedly defending the starter spot would likely be the result of a brilliant offseason and if Blaine Gabbert outperforms his two veteran competitors, that would send an early signal to fans that GM Gene Smith made the right choice trading up for him. Something tells me we shouldn’t automatically count out Luke McCown, either.
- I think the Jaguars have three quarterbacks on the roster, who at the very least, could be a viable backup on any of the 31 other teams. This means if the front office wants to do a trade when the preseason ends or the trade deadline closes, they could possibly garner a pick or two for one of their veteran QB’s. David Garrard would of course, be the more valuable and could be a solution for a team with QB issues. Plenty of teams who didn’t address the position in the draft – including Miami, Washington, Seattle, Arizona – could be potential suitors. Other than Kyle Orton and possibly Kevin Kolb, there are no available (or rumored to be available) quarterbacks who offer more upside than David Garrard. If the Blaine Gabbert progresses quickly, this is an option.
- I think the Jaguars are lucky that Blaine Gabbert already got the playbook and will be able to study it during the lockout. It’s a great head start and about the only exposure he can be given in this unfortunate labor struggle. Everybody has praised his high football IQ, so I think the Jaguars could benefit from this. We’ll see how self-motivated he can be.
- I think the Jaguars should keep all three quarterbacks on the final roster for multiple reasons. First is the trade scenario I mentioned earlier – if a team has a desperate need for a QB and Gabbert is progressing well, there might be an even bigger reward for a Garrard trade. And let’s not forget that Garrard and McCown are both over 30. McCown is coming off his second ACL (one in each knee) and after years of being one of Garrard’s greatest assets, his durability looks like it’s finally starting to fade. He sustained more injuries in one season than he had in all of college and as pro in the last decade. He was injured once as a pro in 2007, but last year was sidelined by a concussion and a wrist injury near the end of the season that required surgery. From an insurance standpoint, I think the Jags should upgrade to three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster this season.
- I think Luke McCown could be the long term backup for this team. There are many teams these days rostering a backup quarterback who’s in his 30’s. The Jets had Mark Brunell (who was 40!), the Ravens – Marc Bulger, the Titans – Kerry Collins. So an experienced player like McCown could be a great long-term asset in the #2 spot. For that to happen, Blaine Gabbert must first show everyone that he is as tough and durable as David Garrard has been and secondly, he must prove that he is “the guy”. Look at the elite QBs in the NFL and who holds the clipboard behind them – the Colts had Jim Sorgi and now, Curtis Painter. If something happens to Manning, Indianapolis is picking in the top three next year. Drew Brees had Mark Brunell as a backup when the Saints won the Superbowl. The Chargers have Billy Volek behind Philip Rivers. None of these guys even resemble competition, much less a serious threat to the starters, because tea
ms don’t need real competition with guys like Manning, Rivers, or Brees under the center. If Blaine Gabbert develops into a top-tier guy, the Jaguars will be fine for several years with Luke McCown backing him up. Given the low cost of keeping McCown around, this is just another reason he should make the final roster, no matter what happens between Garrard and Gabbert.
- I think if Gabbert finds success in the NFL, the Jaguars will have a PR dream in their hands. Peter King wrote that among all of the prospects whoattended the Draft in New York City, Gabbert was the guy who looked like he was auditioning for “Mad Man”. Interviews and off the field footage of Gabbert suggest that he is a polished communicator and has two feet firmly on the ground. If he becomes successful, he can easily change the nationwide perception of the Jacksonville Jaguars in a very positive way.
- Zoltan Paksa