Understanding the Blaine Gabbert Conundrum


Jul 31, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert (11) throws during the first day of training camp in pads at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

After naming Blaine Gabbert the starter against the New York Jets this Saturday, head coach Gus Bradley has all but officially anointed Gabbert the starter for the regular season. Bradley has preached competition at the quarterback spot, but was this decision made a while ago?

After taking over as General Manager at the end of the 2012 season, David Caldwell maneuvered through the roster and evaluated every player. This led to several roster cuts, none of which involved Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert. The general consensus nationally at this point is Gabbert is a bust and the Jaguars should move on. This led people to consider three scenarios:

  1. Replacing Gabbert with Chad Henne.
  2. Replacing Gabbert with a free agent.
  3. Replacing Gabbert with a draft pick (in 2013).

Let’s go ahead and skip the first scenario because that’s technically still a possibility. Caldwell opted to forgo options 2 and 3. Either David Caldwell didn’t think any quarterback available in the draft or free agency was a better option than Gabbert or something else is going on behind the scenes.

Off the record, Caldwell would probably tell you that he could have acquired a quarterback with a better evaluation than what he has on Gabbert. The likes of Alex Smith, Kevin Kolb, or Ryan Fitzpatrick aren’t exactly franchise changing players, but they probably give the Jaguars a better chance to win right now. While the draft didn’t have a transcendent talent at the quarterback position, Caldwell probably had a better grade on Geno Smith than he had/has on Gabbert.

So what is Caldwell doing? Why are we sticking with Gabbert when we could’ve upgraded, even if it wasn’t by that much?

It’s all about the 2014 draft class.

In all likelihood, the Jaguars are going to be bad in 2013. Our roster is so depleted and bereft of game-changing talent that we were able to choose a right tackle with the second overall pick. Caldwell could have picked virtually any position second overall and it would have been an immediate upgrade. This team needs time to develop, but most importantly it needs a quarterback.

Look back to the 2011 draft – Gene Smith had spent two years theoretically “building” a roster. He then decided 2011 was the year to draft his franchise quarterback. Looking back at the 2009 and 2010 drafts, it was probably for the best that he passed on drafting his QB then. But by the time 2011 rolled around, Gene Smith had already used up most of his allotted “GM lifetime”. He needed to acquire a quarterback before the seat got too hot, so he swung for the fences and traded up to draft Gabbert.

Caldwell also decided to opt out of drafting his guy at quarterback in his first draft. Caldwell didn’t see any franchise quarterbacks in the 2013 draft and most of the league agreed with him. When the 2014 draft arrives, don’t expect Caldwell to practice the same strategy. The 2014 draft  could potentially offer up a clear-cut, first overall pick talent (Teddy Bridgewater), two sure-fire first round prospects (Tajh Boyd and David Fales), and the most polarizing signal caller since Tim Tebow (Johnny Manziel).

"Privately, the Jaguars were only too happy to see the Buffalo Bills (Manuel) and New York Jets (Smith) grab quarterbacks in the first two rounds of the draft. That likely takes both teams off the market for next year– Jason Cole, Yahoo Sports"

Almost nobody in the Jaguar fanbase thinks Blaine Gabbert is the answer at quarterback and the front office in Jacksonville probably feels the same way.  But one can’t help but think Caldwell and Gus Bradley decided to start Blaine Gabbert a long time ago in an effort to prepare for the 2014 draft. If this team is going to sink, Blaine Gabbert is going to be steering it.

– Daniel Lago

Yell at me on Twitter @dlago89