It’s hard to truly know what’s in another man’s heart. As fans, we think we know these players, but there are entire sagas played out in the privacy of the locker room that we are not privileged to. I will not say with complete conviction that I think David Garrard had given up in Jacksonville, but I will say that I noticed some unwelcome changes with David that signaled to me things were changing for the worse.
Garrard’s release was a big shock to me yesterday – not because he was released, but because of the timing. We had been led to believe that David gave us the best chance to win and I still believed that despite his ugly preseason performance, Garrard gave us the best chance to win in 2011. We’d won with Garrard before when he was surrounded by a strong team and he could do it again, but in what seemed like the final minute, we were told that career backup Luke McCown would be our starter, with rookie Blaine Gabbert waiting in the wings. Del Rio summed it up best in his press conference; Garrard just “couldn’t get it going”, “was unable to find a rhythm”, and was given “every opportunity to show us what we had seen before, what made him the starter in the first place”. I didn’t want to believe it when I was seeing it this preseason, but that’s what it felt like all along. Garrard couldn’t get it going and it almost felt like he had given up, content to play the victim of bad pass protection, the victim of average receivers, the victim of franchise that was nudging him to make room for the new guy.
Despite initially playing the “media game” very nobly when Blaine Gabbert was first drafted and came to town, things seemed to slip downhill rather quickly once the lockout ceased and normal football operations were officially back in action. Gabbert or no Gabbert, David had to know it was time to step up and having the highly-drafted (and media darling) rookie quarterback behind him only made that more apparent. Garrard’s sudden “chronic” back trouble was the first issue that popped up. Fans had never heard of this “chronic”, ongoing problem and the ever-durable David Garrard being sidelined by a nagging ailment, rather than playing through it. Garrard’s body language changed this preseason, too. He grimaced more when he went down and walked off the field – not that he wasn’t getting crushed, but it’s just never been Garrard’s style to be demonstrative or show how much pain he was in. On the field and on the sidelines, he seemed to be constantly blaming the offensive line – warranted, but again, out of character for Garrard. The most substantial development in all of this was the unbridled blaming of Mike Thomas for a badly overthrown deep ball that was intercepted versus Atlanta in the press conference following the game; it was again entirely out of character for Garrard and in this case, it was a bad pass and very much his fault.
There are a lot of emotions going through the Jaguars faithful, right now. David won the starting quarterback job in a dramatic way four years ago and his play in 2007 (and subsequent contract) had many fans entertaining dreams that this athletic backup who had risen from obscurity would lead the franchise to sustained excellence for many years. That hope ended yesterday and frankly, I wish we had seen more of a fight from Garrard. I did not expect him to fizzle out the way he did this preseason, but it seems that there was just too much going against him and he no longer was able to fight off the adversity and the non-believers.
Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi.
– Andrew Hofheimer