Editor’s Note: This post is by yet another new contributor to Black&Teal, Chris Goodwyn, a Jacksonville native and longtime Jaguars fan, who is currently spreading the Jaguars love at UCF. I hope all of our readers enjoy his work and please welcome Chris to Black&Teal!
“Blaine will be our starting quarterback” proclaimed Jack Del Rio at Wednesday morning’s press conference and to be honest, this is what everyone has been looking forward to since the 21 year old was drafted. Blaine Gabbert is now officially the starting quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars and with that promotion, the Jaguars become his team. If you talk to anyone in the locker room, they are all confident that he will have no problem taking the reigns and leading this team through a successful season. As Uche Nwaneri put it, “he’s got the swag”, and right now, a little “swag” is just what the Jaguars need.Blaine Gabbert has every skill needed to become an elite quarterback in this league. He’s got the physical assets – his arm strength, speed, and size are all comparable to those of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. The mental assets are present, as well – he has poise in the pocket, he’s “coachable” (which is often overlooked i.e. JaMarcus Russel, Ryan Leaf), and most importantly, “he’s got the swag”, the confidence to step in at a young age and with no pro experience and do what needs to be done.
Blaine has been a winner since high school, where he was a three-year starter. At Missouri, Blaine went 18-8 over two years as the starting quarterback. Granted, this is the National Football League, but I believe winners find ways to win. The Jaguars expect nothing less from Gabbert as the franchise quarterback of this team.
Gabbert was in eighth grade when Byron Leftwich was drafted by the Jaguars with the seventh overall pick in the April 2003 NFL draft. Since that day, three different quarterbacks have started regular season games for the Jaguars. Gabbert will be the fourth starting Sunday at Carolina. As we break down each of these three quarterbacks, we want to see how Blaine can learn from their mistakes and triumphs and turn it into a winning season.
We begin with Leftwich, who while he wasn’t exactly a fan favorite, he typically managed to keep the Jaguars in games by not making big mistakes. I think what rubbed many fans the wrong way with Byron was the way he played the game. As a fan, I found myself frustrated by the time he always took in the pocket, his elongated wind-up and complete lack of emotion on the field. I think Gabbert can play with the toughness and composure that Leftwich often displayed but is hands down a more emotional and enthusiastic player. This team and the Jacksonville fans could use someone that wears their heart on their sleeve and leaves everything on the field. I think Blaine Gabbert is that player.
David Garrard, who the city got excited about when he came in after a Leftwich injury in 2006 and went 5-2 through his first seven games, almost immediately Jaguar fans started clamoring for him to be named the starting quarterback. What most people tend to forget is that Garrard’s consistency issues date back to the final three games of that season. The Jaguars lost the three games that they needed to win to make the playoffs. As a team and an organization, you need to count on your quarterback coming through when your team needs it the most. Garrard could never do that; he was consistently unreliable. He might put up five touchdowns one week and turn the ball over four times the next. As a franchise quarterback, that is just not acceptable. However, Garrard did excel at keeping plays alive with his feet, often breaking tackles to avoid sacks. Blaine’s speed is often overlooked. He ran a 4.6 forty at his pro-day, and this part of the game should come easy to him. At the end of the day, if Blaine can play with more efficiency and consistency, which I know he will, and he can keep plays alive with his athleticism he will be a far better quarterback that David Garrard ever was.
We, as a fan base, didn’t get to see everything Luke McCown was capable of doing. Do I think Luke is a better quarterback than what he showed on Sunday against the Jets? Yes, but when you throw four interceptions, two on back to back pass attempts, you cannot expect to be a starting quarterback in this league. Especially troubling about two of the interceptions was the fact that they were thrown to linebackers. Every quarterback makes bad throws that the secondary capitalizes on, whether it sails and falls right into the corner’s hands or you short it and they jump the route. It happens. However you can’t throw interceptions to linebackers, you just can’t. McCown’s turnovers took us out of contention in the Jets game, and Blaine cannot let that happen. If Blaine wants to become an elite quarterback in this league, he will need to take care of the football. Period.
Overall, I think Blaine has all the physical traits and mental characteristics to be a great quarterback in this league. But it’s not about what he CAN or has the potential to do, it’s about what he DOES. Until now, he hasn’t really done anything. That is all about to change on Sunday. The Blaine Gabbert era starts now Jacksonville! It’s time to get behind your quarterback and the new, true leader of your team.
– Chris Goodwyn