It is almost certain that the Jaguars will face major changes in the next offseason. At this point, Gene Smith is all but gone since his “Re-building Year 4″ roster is most likely the worst in franchise history. This team has been getting worse and worse in the last 4 years. It is time for a change. Smith must go, but the fates of head coach Mike Mularkey and starting QB Blaine Gabbert are in jeopardy too. Mularkey is the victim of poor talent evaluation and a very weak roster with major injuries. He might go too, and I have some issues with him, but that is a subject of another article. What can be judged right now is the QB. It’s not looking good for Gabbert. Let me explain which area I have major issues with.
Gabbert has been the starter for the Jaguars since week 3 of the ’11 season. In his 23 games starting, his record is an awful 5-18. If a team has an average QB, even he wins 2 or 3 games mostly because of him in a 16 game season, no matter how bad his team is. In Gabbert’s case, except maybe 1 victory (but I will show you even that wasn’t won mostly because of him) he wasn’t the reason why those 5 games ended up in the W column.
His first victory came against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night (12-7). He threw 9/20 for 93 yards without a TD or a pick. He wasn’t the reason the Jaguars won that game. The defense didn’t allowed a 1st down to the Ravens offense for 3 quarters. Josh Scobee scored all 12 points and Maurice Jones- Drew ran for 105 yards.
Let’s see the scoreboard: Victories 1 – Victories thanks to Gabbert 0
His second victory came against the then winless Colts in Lucas Oil Stadium. Gabbert threw 14/21 for 118 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception. Not bad, but if we count that Maurice Jones-Drew had 114 rushing yards (only 4 yards less than Gabbert had in the air) and 1 TD, and he had 23 receiving yards, we can see this wasn’t Gabbert’s victory either. Plus if we count out Gabbert’s TD pass, the Jaguars could still have won the game.
Let’s see the scoreboard: Victories 2 – Victories thanks to Gabbert 0
The best game & victory under the Gabbert era was against Tampa Bay. The Jaguars blew out the Buccaneers 41-14. It was 14-0 for the visiting team, when the special teams (a fumble recovery TD by Colin Cloherty) and a defensive TD (by DT Nate Collins) turned the tide. Gabbert had a decent game 19/33 for 217 yards with 2 TDs and 2 picks, but Maurice Jones-Drew had one of his best in his career. “Pocket Hercules” scored a career high 4 TDs, 2 on the ground (85 rushing yards) and he caught both TD passes from Gabbert and had 51 yards receiving. Even if we count out those TD passes, the Jaguars could’ve still win the game. So no love for Gabbert this time too.
Let’s see the scoreboard: Victories 3 – Victories thanks to Gabbert 0
The 4th victory came against the Colts the second time during the regular season. Indianapolis had a 2-0 winning streak, but the Jaguars defeated them 19-13, so Indianapolis secured the Nr. 1 pick and drafted Andrew Luck (currently the Colts are 6-3 and a pretty good chance for a wild card spot in year 1 of their rebuild). Gabbert’s stats were quite weak: 11/19 for 92 yards and a TD. Meanwhile the game was all about Maurice Jones-Drew. He secured the rushing title and the franchse rushing record with a fantastic 169 yard rushing game. He was the real difference between the 2 teams, so I can’t give this victory to Gabbert in our current contest.
Let’s see the scoreboard: Victories 4 – Victories thanks to Gabbert 0
Scoring the lone victory of the ’12 season for our competition is a bit complicated. Against Indianapolis on Week 3 the Jaguars played the 1st half like they do on a regular basis at home. Pretty weak. But on the second half Maurice Jones-Drew ran for a 59 yard touchdown and he was unstoppable (again) after that. He finished with 177 rushing yards, his second best as a pro. But he wouldn’t have been enough for a win. Gabbert who had another lackluster game until the very last minute, threw a great pass to Cecil Shorts who too it to the house and won the game. It was an 80 yard play. Gabbert had 75 yards in his previous 9 passes… He finished 10/21 with 155 yards and a game winning TD. But it was Maurice Jones-Drew who kept the Jaguars in the game until this moment. So I should share the credit between the two and award Gabbert with half a point in the current contest. So since the Jaguars have failed to win another game since, the final score is:
Victories 5 – Victories thanks to Gabbert 0.5
That’s pretty bad. To be fair with him, there were 2 games where he was the positive difference and almost won the game for the Jaguars. Sadly in both cases something let him down. In Week 1 against the Vikings he was the best player for the Jaguars, had 260 yards, 2 TDs, 0 picks, including a 29 yard TD pass to Cecil Shorts which put Jacksonville into the lead with 20 seconds remaining. Sadly the defense and special teams let the Vikings get within FG range and rookie K Blair Walsh tied the game from 55 yards and made another game winning field goal in OT. The Jaguars went 4 & out and lost. If the Jaguars could’ve kept that lead in the end, that would’ve been the 1st victory that Gabbert was the major force behind.
The other almost victory was against Oakland in Week 8. Gabbert had a fantastic and efficient 1st half going 8/12 for 110 yards and a TD, but Raiders DE Matt Shaughnessy fell on Gabbert’s non throwing shoulder, and although he tried to play with it, he was pulled out of the game in the end of the 1st half. Sadly for him and the Jaguars, his backup Chad Henne was terrible in the 2nd half and the offense barely moved forward in that period. The huge lead vanished, and the Raiders tied the game for overtime. Here the Jaguars and Cecil Shorts lost the ball and gave an easy situation to Raiders K Sebastian Janikowski, who kicked an easy game winning FG. The victory could’ve been very special because Gabbert would have won without the help of Maurice Jones-Drew who was injured in the 1st snap of the game.
So Gabbert had 2 almost victories. But in the NFL nobody can survive for long with moral victories, especially when he has more opportunities. Since Maurice Jones-Drew is out, the Jaguars have become a pass first team. The WR corp is better then last year, even with a struggling Justin Blackmon. Gabbert has a clear Nr. 1 WR in Cecil Shorts. Laurent Robinson and Michael Spurlock have become reliable contributors lately. Sadly there is 0 chemistry between Gabbert and Blackmon, and I have the feeling that they don’t trust each other by now (Gabbert barely threw toward Blackmon against the Colts. But he was suddenly effective when Henne took over). Marcedes Lewis also belongs to the sure handed pass catchers this season (although behind him there is nobody and that’s becoming a huge issue). Even Rashad Jennings is a better pass catcher than a RB. Still the results are very bad, especially at home (0-5, with 44-153 scoring differential).
There are a lot of holes and needs in this roster talent wise, and I’m not sure the QB is the biggest one of them. But the QB can bring the most significant change. Gabbert has better position coaches, better receivers, an average offensive line and had an entire offseason to prepare himself. Yet the results are not coming. I’m not saying he is not improved, because he is, just take a look at the his stats this season. Still, QBs are judged by how everyne is judged in this league: by the results. Quite frankly, by now if Gabbert is really the long term answer of this franchise at the position, he should have proved that with 2-3 victories on his own. He has 7 games left to prove to the owner that he was worthy of that 1st round pick (and the 2nd rounder the Jaguars traded away for him). Their remaining schedule has 2 tough opponents (1 this week at Houston, the other is the Week 16 game against the Patriots) and 4 (Titans twice) manageable teams. Gabbert (like most of his teammates) must prove himself in these games. If he wins 2 or 3 games by himself in these last 7, I would give him 1 more year. But if the results stay the same, then the Jaguars must draft a new QB in April’s draft.
– Zoltan Paksa