Alright. Here it comes. The big one. The most important position on the field.
Is there a quarterback competition or isn’t there? That seems to be the main question coming out of Jacksonville OTAs thus far. Many believe that Gabbert will be the guy to start come week 1 no matter what. I believe that if Henne honestly outperforms Gabbert in camp, Henne will be the guy. Of course, it would take a complete break down in Gabbert’s play to be unseated like that. I don’t see Henne outperforming Gabbert whatsoever, though. The reason being is because Gabbert seems to be an outstanding practice player, even though not too long ago Mark Long tweeted something along the lines of “worst quarterback play he’s ever seen at Everbank.”
I’m sure it was true on that particular day, but then again that was extremely early in the offseason. I’m sure that both Gabbert and Henne are steadily picking up on the new offense and developing rapport with the receivers, tight ends and backs.
Nothing was really done to address this position in free agency or the draft. Everyone was expecting us to make a run at Matt Flynn or draft Geno Smith. Instead, a new committment was made to both quarterbacks on the roster, and Caldwell added more pieces to the team to improve the situation since an improvement at the position was not available, at least in their eyes which are the only eyes that matter.
Two quarterbacks were added in collegiate free agency, but that was it. So without further ado, here are the quarterbacks on Jacksonville’s roster.
- Blaine Gabbert: Man. Where to start? Gabbert was taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. GM at the time, Gene Smith, traded up to get his guy. We were all under the impression Gabbert would have a “sit and learn” period. Instead, Garrard was let go, Luke McCown was named starter and pretty soon Gabbert was thrown to the wolves. Since then, he has been underwhelming. He’s been accused of being frantic and scared in the pocket. Over the last two seasons he’s thrown for 21 TDs and 17 INTs. The offense has been a joke and has stalled out time and time again. What is a little bit surprising to me, however, is that Jacksonville finished 21st in the league (passing yards) with 213.7 passing yards per game in 2012. What can you expect from a team that was always playing from behind? In today’s game you need either an elite quarterback or a quarterback who is on his way to becoming elite. What makes quarterbacks elite anyways? It seems like all you have to do is win a super bowl and then you’re considered elite, but that’s a different story altogether. Where was I? Gabbert is young. As a matter of fact my little brother is older than him. I believe that’s one of the only things keeping him in the game at this point. Sure, he’s shown flashes from time to time, but not nearly consistent enough to warrant anything shorter than a one year leash that has “prove yourself” printed on it. Do I believe that the coaches think Gabbert can get the job done? If they didn’t think he could, would he even be in the conversation? This is Gabbert’s last shot as it should be. I certainly hope he pulls it together in 2013.
- Chad Henne: Chad Henne was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2008 and was brought to Jacksonville during the 2012 free agency period. He took over for Gabbert last year after he (Gabbert) hit I.R.. Henne gave the team some kind of spark. He only started 6 games, but earned himself a chance to at least compete for the starting position. He threw for 2,084 yards, 11 TDs, and 11 INTs which isn’t great, but how can you write off that game against Houston? He also notched one of two wins for the Jaguars in a season already lost. He’s relatively young himself (27), and may have some upside. Sounds crazy, but you never know. This IS Henne’s last opportunity, and I’m sure he’s prepared to fight for his NFL life. Either way Henne has a spot on this team. Even if Gabbert wins this competition, Henne will be the seasoned vet helping the young man along the way.
- Matt Scott: Matt Scott was once considered a mid round prospect. Jacksonville got him via collegiate free agency. He experienced a spike in pre-draft interest due to an outstanding pro day. Scott has an automatic connection to the Jaguars via quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo who held the same position at Arizona, Scott’s alum. Scott is an intriguining prospect, but recently coaches have come out and pretty much said that Scott has a ways to go. I like Scott’s skillset and think he could be an option down the road. For now, I’d like to see him stick around and develop.
- Jordan Rodgers: Yes, Aaron Rodgers’ brother, who like Matt Scott, is an UDFA. Rodgers threw for 2,539 yards, 15 TDs and 5 INTs last season at Vanderbilt, and because I don’t really keep up with Vandy, that’s all I can tell you. Judging from OTAs and rookie mini camp…well I can’t tell you very much. Rodgers had sports hernia surgery and it looks like he’ll be out until at least training camp. He’ll be competing with Scott for the 3rd quarterback spot, if the Jags decide to carry three. If not, they’ll both be competing for the practice squad.
I honestly like what the Jaguars have done regarding this position. They stayed away from the high priced free agents (who else is looking forward to seeing Carson Palmer set back Arizona) and didn’t reach for a quarterback (see Mark Sanchez 2009). There simply weren’t any better options out there. So instead of making a knee jerk reaction and making the odds even worse for the future, the Jaguars are standing pat and trying to make the overall team better instead of paying someone too much who won’t stick for very long (Kevin Kolb) or bringing the circus to town (Tim Tebow). You want to see what you have in your 23 year old quarterback who has upside instead of bringing in a vet who has reached his ceiling (Alex Smith).
Sometimes you have to stick with what you’ve got, and that’s exactly what Jacksonville is doing. There’s a very good chance that Gabbert isn’t the guy. It’s the truth, folks. But why pay too much or give away draft picks if an immediate upgrade isn’t available? That kind of reckless abandonment is what keeps teams from actually getting better (see Buddy Nix and Ryan Fitzpatrick).
This is a testing period for the quarterbacks on the roster. If both tank, look for the Jaguars to be eyeing a Teddy Bridgewater next season. Caldwell has already come out and said that he’ll be keeping a close eye on next year’s batch of rookie QBs. Until then, we’re rolling with what we’ve got.
-David R. Johns