July 27, 2012; Jacksonville FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert (11) and quarterback Chad Henne (7) during the first afternoon of training camp practice at Florida Blue Health

Great Expectations: A Blaine Gabbert Tale

While the national media has continued to defame our chosen leader, news from local media outlets and the Jaguar press continues to be quite positive.  The most recent positive sound bite comes from offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, who said that “Blaine is the most improved player that I see out here on offense.”  Now, that’s all well and good, but Gabbert also had the most room to improve, given his calamitous rookie season.  So how good has he gotten relative to other starters around the league?

 

To determine that though, we need to look back at how bad he was relative to other starters around the league last year.  And backups.  That’s right.  Amongst all NFL QBs that threw at least 100 passes, Gabbert was second-worst in defense-adjusted value over average, Football Outsider’s metric for efficiency per play, corrected for defense.  46th/47th… Behind offensive stalwarts like Kerry Collins, Seneca Wallace, Vince Young, and Kellen Clemens, his new backup – Chad Henne, the guy who almost took his place – Tim Tebow, and fellow (5th round) rookie quarterback TJ Yates.

 

Can't knock the throwing motion too much - Tebow's results >> Gabbert's. Source: Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE

 

But it’s time we move past that.  I don’t know exactly why Gabbert played so much more poorly than a 5th round quarterback, but he did and that’s that.  And while Yates was drafted in round 5 as a future game manager (Jeff Garcia-like?), Gabbert was drafted with all the tools and expectations to be a franchise quarterback, albeit a bit of a project for a top 10 pick.

 

Looking forward, we’ll need a keen eye to determine how Gabbert is progressing.  It’s been mentioned on this site plenty of times, but it’s worth restating once more.  Assessing Gabbert’s development will require more than looking at yards passed and touchdown:interception ratio; it will require an analysis of Gabbert’s footwork, throwing mechanics, consistency, and leadership, among other things.  He might not make all of these strides by the first week of the season, or even by the end of the season.  But we need to see “enough”… whatever enough actually is.

 

Gabbert’s success next year depends on his development in these areas during this offseason and into the season.  At least to local news reporters, Gabbert has shown plenty of improvement in these areas, particularly with regards to his footwork.  Football Outsiders had an interesting article on the development of QBs and when it mostly occurs.  Some positions, like wide receiver, have a specific time frame for development… usually you give a receiver at least three years to learn the nuances of the position and hone his mechanics (cough, Justin Blackmon fans).  But how long do you give a quarterback?   Aaron Rodgers fans reading this may argue for at least three years for quarterback development to be significant, but on the other hand, Cam Newton fans may say that quarterback development starts as soon as the season does.  According to Football Outsiders, the only time that a quarterback consistently develops is between year one and year two (about a 13% increase in DVOA).  After the second year, however, a quarterback’s development oscillates between -5.5%to 3.5% improvement/decrease, year after year, until they hit 30.

 

Blaine is on the modified Aaron Rodgers plan. Source: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

 

My expectations for Gabbert’s development doesn’t exactly follow Football Outsiders’ pattern.  Gabbert’s first year was bad in part because of the extenuating circumstances surrounding the NFL collective bargaining agreement. He didn’t get an offseason, minicamp, or real training camp experience.   Because of this, I believe we should see a significant jump in year 2, but perhaps an even bigger jump in year three – after his second training camp and essentially his first full season as an NFL starter.

 

In my book, Blaine’s got at least two years to develop into the guy Jags nation expects him to be.  In the meantime, let’s teach our receivers how to catch, shall we?

 

– Zain Gowani

 

“Promise me you’ll always remember.  You’re braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” – Christopher Robin

Happy Birthday Kristin Stevens.

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