What’s Next: Blaine Gabbert – Looking Forward, Waaay Forward
By Luke Sims
This week, for the second week this season, Blaine Gabbert will be the counterpart to a rookie quarterback: Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. In the build up to the draft, I counted Dalton as my man. I liked his accuracy, thought his arm strength could improve through NFL level conditioning, and I figured TCU’s offense would translate well for him in the NFL. But how have the rookies been doing through the first four weeks? How have rookies historically done in their first seasons? What can we expect from Blaine later on in the season? What can we expect from him later on down the road? Follow the jump to find out.
At the end of this post you will find a list of first round quarterbacks that started in their rookie years. This list is by no means exhausted, but it covers company that we hope Blaine Gabbert will keep, or provides a good comparison or contrast currently. We’re through a quarter of the season, we’ve begun to see a lot of Blaine Gabbert. So, what is it that we can expect? Will we get a Peyton Manning? Or will we get a David Carr?
The first year for a quarterback in the NFL can be defining. It’s rare that a quarterback can jump back from a terrible first season (like David Carr’s 76 sacks). Some quarterbacks put of godlike numbers (Cam Newton thus far), while others play in systems that put more emphasis on the running game (Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco). While the sample size is rather small so far this season, I think we can begin to get a clearer picture of Blaine Gabbert.
Unlike Andy Dalton and Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert has not started every game this season. Originally he was supposed to sit a year behind a four year starter, David Garrard, and learn. If so, this list would hold considerably different company. Gabbert, Newton and Dalton all have similar situations in that they didn’t have access to the team due to the lockout. Newton has easily shown the best knowledge of his playbook thus far and has benefitted from a better supporting cast than Dalton and Gabbert. Dalton benefits from a strong running attack and a young, but talented, receiving corps (boasting 1st round pick AJ Green). In that regard, it isn’t shocking to see Gabbert’s completion percentage sitting at 47.8%. (while he has the smallest sample size). But looking at the other player on the list with the worst supporting cast, David Carr, he still managed a 52.5 completion percentage. Similarly, Peyton Manning’s team won a meager 3 games, and his percentage sat at 56.7%. The most similar percentage, Eli Manning (48.2%), had a team with a strong emphasis on running with Tiki Barber, better receivers than the Jags have currently (Amani Toomer, how I love you), and, of course, has bounced back to be a solid, superbowl winning player. But even so, are we really looking for a future Eli Manning to lead the Jags?
I spent a lot of time focusing on completion percentage because it is the most telling stat that goes with a quarterback through his years in the NFL no matter what. While Gabbert has only thrown 69 passes thus far, I think that it is sobering to see what he has done.
When looking at touchdowns to interceptions it is pretty apparent that most of the quarterbacks have similar ratios and have higher or lower numbers due to the amount of attempts they had to take (Whether due to trailing or play calling). If Gabbert keeps a ratio hovering around 1:1, it would appear that his development wouldn’t be hampered going forward. While if his two touchdowns in three games was put out for the rest of the season (a projected 10 TDs) it may indicate that his skills as a quarterback are limited and the Jags passing attack to be anemic.
Sacks are included in this glimpse at Gabbert’s future mostly to look at how the Jags’ overall passing attack may fare in the future. Obviously, the offensive line of the Jags’ needs to be retooled. But if Gabbert ends up taking a projected 24 more sacks (putting him at 30 total) he could potentially rebound (Peyton and Flacco had similar numbers), or be the mediocre quarterback of his team (Mark Sanchez, yes he does win, but what if they had waited for Bradford, or gotten Flacco or Ryan? Hmmmm).
Like most Jags fans, I’m not looking for Aaron Rodgers type numbers out of the gate for Gabbert. But I would like to see signs of greatness. An analysis only a quarter into the season may be a bit premature. But keeping an eye on a similar cohort of quarterbacks is only logical. At this time, I’m undecided about Gabbert. But if his completion percentage doesn’t improve and if his yards per game stay at about where they are, I’m not exactly optimistic for the Jags in the coming future.
Occasionally teams pick up a bust. Do I think Gabbert is one? No. But I think a confusion of personnel and coaching may contribute to a David Carr type future for our dear Blaine. Del Rio and Co need to get on the same page as the team, and they need to understand that the millions of dollars they’re investing in Gabbert must payoff in the future.
Cam Newton: 4 games, 97 of 167 (59.5%), 1,386 yards (346.5 yards/game), 5 touchdowns, 5 picks, 8 sacks.
Blaine Gabbert: 3 games, 33 of 69 (47.8%), 387 yards (129 yards/game), 2 touchdowns, 2 picks, 6 sacks.
Andy Dalton: 4 games, 72 of 124 (58.1%), 868 yards (217 yards/game), 4 touchdowns, 4 picks, 8 sacks.
Sam Bradford: 16 games, 354 of 590 (60%), 3,512 yards (219.5 yards/game), 18 touchdowns, 15 picks, 34 sacks.
Matt Ryan: 16 games, 265 of 434 (61%), 3,440 yards (215 yards/game), 16 touchdowns, 11 picks, 17 sacks.
Joe Flacco: 16 games, 257 of 428 (60%), 2,971 yards (185.7 yards/game), 14 touchdowns, 12 picks, 32 sacks.
Mark Sanchez: 15 games, 196 of 364 (53.8%), 2,444 yards (162.9 yards/game), 12 touchdowns, 20 picks, 26 sacks.
Eli Manning: 10 games, 95 of 197 (48.2%), 1,043 yards (115.9 yards/game), 6 touchdowns, 9 picks, 13 sacks.
David Carr: 16 games, 233 of 444 (52.5%), 2,592 yards (162 yards/game), 9 touchdowns, 15 picks, 76 sacks.
Peyton Manning: 16 games, 326 of 575 (56.7%), 3739 yards (233.7 yards/game), 26 touchdowns, 28 picks, 22 sacks.
– Luke N. Sims