B&T Classics: Why Blaine Gabbert Could Bust

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April 27, 2012; Jacksonville FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert talks to reporters about their first round draft pick Justin Blackmon prior to the start of a press conference at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

During the NFL Draft, Gabbert was advertised as the “rocket arm” by ESPN in a series of draft-related commercials. It confused me so I went and watched more tape (YouTube). At times, he does have a rocket arm, but it’s not a rocket arm in the sense that Favre or Cutler or even Jamarcus Russell had a rocket arm. Gabbert has what I would call a situational rocket arm. On a deep throw, Gabbert can plant his feet, line his shoulder up with his target and drive the football as good as anyone in the NFL. I’m talking about the entire motion: whip-like release, high-velocity throw, and accuracy that would make Chad Pennington (most accurate QB ever) jealous. So, what’s wrong? It doesn’t happen all the time and that is the story of Blaine Gabbert: inconsistency.

I know that as a Jaguars fan, you hate to hear that word. Inconsistency. You are so used to it that it is expected. David Garrard shows flashes of brilliance, but its inconsistent. Byron Leftwich showed flashes of brilliance but it too was inconsistent. You know what, Todd Bouman looked pretty smooth and effective at times filling in, and while it was impressive to get off a tractor and play that well against Kansas City, the end result was that he too did not play consistent enough. The average Jaguar fan might even be numb to the idea of greatness at QB on this team.

As fans we know we can’t control the game, but we can sweat, pray, plead and whine all we want. While it does nothing, we still hope for that franchise QB to come along and save us from ourselves. The team deserves to win, after all, and we deserve to partake in the winning. We’re loyal.

This long spill brings me to my point. I fear that Jaguars fans will tire of Gabbert quickly. There is too much hope being placed upon him right now. Most fans believe that Gabbert will either sit the entire season or a large portion of the season this fall and then whenever he comes out of the tunnel in week 1 of 2012, he will be great. Sure, there will be a few boneheaded mistakes Joe Flacco-style, but he’ll be great right? I don’t believe so. Let’s put him under the microscope.

Invisible Defenders

The first word that came to my mind when I watched Gabbert film was loose. Gabbert plays very loose. The number one excuse for that is that he has a below-average offensive line and his escapability and awareness lead to him running….a lot. However, a disciplined quarterback would wait more than 1.5 seconds to run. There are times where Gabbert flees from no one. Watch the film, he will take off running when no one is chasing him and I’m not talking about running straight. I’m talking about sideways. He is fleeing imaginary defenders. The counter-argument is that he knows it’s the best way to win and is doing all he can to win.

Accuracy and Inconsistent Touch

Gabbert is praised for his accuracy by some and lamented by others. Bringing up a statistic would be useless. His WR’s are known to drop balls and his offensive line is known to allow defenders to chase him. You would have to grade plays where things worked out perfectly. You need to watch with your eyes and not with a stat sheet to understand Gabbert. He can place the perfect touch on the ball (this means that the ball is not too hard and not too soft). He throws hard on deep balls to get more velocity. He throws soft on short passes to make the ball easier to catch around the defenders, and then he misses easy throws, has bad timing on throws and forces coverage. Three defenders will normally outplay one receiver, even when you have a “rocket” arm. The worst part is the short passes. He gets inconsistent with his touch on these throws. Like I mentioned, he can be great and then he can be bad. He’s a project.

His accuracy varies from game-to-game and sometimes by the quarter. There are times when Gabbert places the ball perfectly in front of the receiver leading the receiver towards more yardage. However, there are also times when Gabbert has to try too hard and things go bad. This in particular reminds me of our own David Garrard when he first became the starter. Head Coach Jack Del Rio often mentioned that Garrard was trying to do too much and that could be why Gabbbert never blossomed in college. Colts big-wig front office personnel man Bill Polian made the comment before the draft that “you can’t teach accuracy”. It’s a concerning statement that applies heavily.

Footwork

Gabbert has the sloppiest footwork of any quarterback in the entire draft. I know that Mallet takes a lot of heat for bad footwork but if you look closely, it’s not that bad. Mallet has correct but slow, terribly slow footwork. Gabbert has decently fast feet in the pocket, but he relies on his arm strength and doesn’t seem to place them correctly with regularity.

If you watch Peyton Manning and Sam Bradford, they have two things in common: Insane accuracy and the most disciplined footwork you can watch. Seriously, go watch them.

Knowledge

I’ve personally never sat down with Gabbert, but from the multiple interviews I’ve seen, Gabbert seems intellectual. He did well with Steve Mariucci of the NFL Network and he also seemed to hold his own in an interview with ESPN representative Jon Gruden. If you weren’t aware, both of these men are former head coaches in the NFL. They both liked his smarts. Gruden, however, will like anyone if you show them to him.

Intangibles

Gabbert seems to ace every intangible test possible. For that, I am grateful he will be on the Jaguars.

Summary

I can really only say what I see so many ways, I just want to warn everyone that their hopes might be getting too high. There is a 32% chance that Gabbert becomes great, not ALL-Time Great just proportionately great for 8-10 years. There is an even smaller chance that Gabbert becomes Peyton Manning, which many fans will eventually expect after having to watch Manning for so many years.

The worst part is that Gabbert is a project. Please wrap your head around that. He really is a project. He has sloppy footwork, he has almost no pocket presence, he tends to run from people who aren’t chasing him, and he seems to have trouble staying “dialed in”. By that I mean that Gabbert can’t stay in the zone. You watch a Manning or Roethlisber, Rivers, someone like that and they seem to be in the zone for most of the game and then in 4th quarter they get even better. Gabbert seems lost and loose most of the game and then in clutch situations he gets even better.

The biggest worry I have is that he has been affected with “David Carr Syndrome”. I just made that title up so if it confuses you, just bare with me. I simply mean that he is so used to being under pressure, that he can’t go through progressions as well as he should be able to. David Carr was sacked something like 74 times his rookie year and he was never the same. To this day, I believe that Carr could’ve been a great QB, but they ruined him with that offensive line. While Gabbert will inherit a much better line, I wonder if it’s too late. Can he ever be as disciplined as an All-Pro Quarterback needs to be? Will he learn to go through reads? Will he be the example of why spread-offense QB’s fail in the NFL? Will he be better than Garrard? It’s not guaranteed.

Welcome to the waiting game, folks.

Why Blaine Gabbert Shouldn’t Bust

At the end of the day, you can’t put a draft grade on a man’s heart and that is why Tom Brady made it. Only Gabbert knows what he can or can’t overcome, regardless of the uphill battle he faces.

If you would like to do some more reading on the Jaguars new quarterback, I did a research-typ “Draft Study” on him, you can read here.

- Brandon Clark

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Tags: Blaine Gabbert Byron Leftwich Jacksonville Jaguars NFL Draft 2011 Todd Bouman