It’s not a topic broached very often, but how many franchises can you think of where there isn’t an obvious choice for who the top-signal caller is in that team’s history? Being the most difficult position in all of sports, most teams haven’t been afforded the luxury of two elite quarterbacks in their franchise’s history. There are some exceptions: the 49ers (Montana and Young), Steelers (Bradshaw and Roethlisberger), the Packers (Starr and Favre), Colts (Unitas and Manning), and maybe a few others I’m not remembering.
The point is, fans of most teams don’t have to worry about getting into the debate of the who the greatest quarterback in franchise history is. That holds true for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Any poll should and will have Mark Brunell as the unanimous choice. During his tenure in Jacksonville, Brunell went to three pro bowls and led the Jaguars to two AFC championship games. Looking back now, his numbers aren’t as impressive as I thought they were at the time, but he still was the offensive leader of two super bowl caliber teams.
Going down this road led me to the unenviable task of looking at the rest of the starting quarterbacks in Jacksonville’s history. The gap between Brunell and the next quarterback is sizeable, mostly due to lack of playoff appearances and wins by the rest of the quarterbacks. My personal rankings are below.
- Mark Brunell
- David Garrard
- Byron Leftwich
- Blaine Gabbert
Not exactly an overwhelming list. While Mark Brunell was part of some very good playoff teams, his numbers are modest enough that someone should have at least challenged his throne in the last decade. Byron Leftwich was drafted to do just that. In four seasons he never once started all 16 games or broke 3,000 yards. In one of his many gambles (and one of the few that paid off), Jack Del Rio cut Leftwich in favor of David Garrard before the 2007 season.
Oh yes, the 2007 season in which every Jaguar fan and everyone in the front office was convinced the team was on the brink of contention. After what can only be considered a fluky 2007 campaign (highlighted by an 18-3 TD-to-INT ratio), Garrard failed to carry the team to another playoff berth, instead carrying an albatross of a contract for three more seasons.
And that leads us to Blaine Gabbert. His story in Jacksonville has yet to conclude, but the first couple chapters are nothing short of disheartening. In what is likely his final attempt to entrench himself for the long term, Gabbert needs to have at the very least an encouraging 2013 season.
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