The Jaguars are entirely reliant upon Blaine Gabbert to be successful. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The offense flows through Maurice Jones-Drew and the running game should continue to be the focal point. But it won’t be. As I mentioned in an article a month ago about retrofitting the offense, new offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski doesn’t operate through the run.
He operates through the pass. Lots of attempts, lots of interceptions, hopefully a lot of yards, and hopefully a lot of touchdowns.
It’s quite a change from what us Jags fans have grown used to. A big change actually.
But it’s time we recognized that Maurice Jones-Drew just can’t win games on his own. He can’t even win games on his own with a superb fullback and good offensive line. He needs good receivers (they can block too) and he needs a good quarterback to alleviate some pressure from his performance. MJD can run as much as he wants, but if he continues to win rushing titles but the Jags don’t surpass 5-11 in a season we’ll have some serious issues.
The NFL is about winning. Period. Superbowls are icing on the cake. Winning three of them in a ten year period will make you a dynasty – even if you lost two more. Losing four in a decade, like the Bills will still mark you among the greats. Getting to the playoffs a decade straight will make your team a powerhouse – even if you fail immediately after losing Peyton Manning.
Winning comes down to finding a scheme that lets you win. Modernly, that is the passing game. Head coach Mike Mularkey knows this and brought in a coordinator, Bratkowski, that he thinks can develop a passing attack to bring the Jags victory. Gabbert is the man to whom this charge falls. He either throws the way he needs to in order to get the W or he fails and the team fails – regardless of MJD’s yardage.
It is important to note that Mularkey and Co. didn’t push for a new quarterback during the offseason. The Tim Tebow trade was motivated solely by new owner Shahid Khan and even that failed. No matter what you think, Chad Henne is nothing more than insurance. There were plenty of good players in this year’s draft. If the team was really serious about needing someone new to hold the reins, they could have gone after Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson, especially since they are apparently thinking about trying the Wildcat formation more. But they want Gabbert.
Why? Because he can throw.
Yes, you read that right. Blaine Gabbert can throw, and he can throw well. Being sacked 40 times your rookie season will make you antsy. I get why he felt phantom pressure. But with a more solidified line it will be all about the passing. So, how does Gabbert do when he isn’t feeling pressure? How did he do when the Jags won a game? What was so special about his best performances?
In Gabbert’s four wins he threw a total of nine deep passes. Nine…every one of them was spread to someone different. What that tells us is that he didn’t have a favorite target to throw the ball to. He didn’t have that “go to” receiver. In contrast, the majority of his passes (well over 50% a game) went either short left or short right. MJD hauled in a good number, but most of them were wide receiver screens or quick outs that could be handled with ease. Rarely did Gabbert send the ball down the middle (deep or short), especially with Marcedes Lewis being so underwhelming (He caught zero of three targets in the middle against the Bucs).
To be honest, I didn’t see much to be excited about or anything “special” about Gabbert during the games that he won. There was no correlation of success and deep passes, no correlation of passes in the middle (in fact, it seems as if the team did worse when the receivers caught the ball in the middle), and the only thing consistent among the entire season was his constant throwing either short left or short right.
This is consistent with the Jaguars having better backs and poor receivers, but it really doesn’t tell us if we have a gifted quarterback or not. Considering that it is consensus that Gabbert has the physical tools to play quarterback and has been able to read defenses well (just not pressure), the conclusion to draw was the the receivers were not adequate. I know, it’s a surprise. It’s about time, the Jags brought in some premium talent to get things done. Fortunately, they have.
Can Blaine Gabbert really be Bratkowski’s guy to implement a continually throwing offense? I think so. It’s not that Gabbert no longer has excuses to underperform. As Zoltan pointed out, he wasn’t making excuses. But he could have.
Gabbert can put the ball where he wants it. It’s about time we had some receivers stop making excuses and catch the damn ball.
- Luke N. Sims