It was an abrupt, if not expected, end to Gilbert's tenure in Austin, which saw him start his Texas career with near-heroic status after almost delivering a comeback for the ages in the 2010 BCS National Championship game and end it as an ushered-out afterthought to younger quarterbacks Case McCoy and David Ash. Shortly after Gilbert was pulled for throwing two interceptions against BYU, he had season-ending shoulder surgery, an announcement that came soon enough to slap a medical redshirt on Gilbert's season and seemingly opening the possibility of his eventual transfer.
The Longhorns gave him an unconditional release from his scholarship.
"This was a very difficult decision because I love the University of Texas and have had a great time playing there," Gilbert said via a statement. "I've talked to (Head) Coach (Mack) Brown, (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks) Coach (Bryan) Harsin and the staff and have decided it is in my best interest to transfer. I can't thank all of my teammates and everyone at Texas enough for all of their support, but I just think I'm at a point in my life where I need a fresh start.
"Coach Brown was very understanding and granted me a release to take some visits while I decide where I'm going to transfer to," Gilbert said. "That's what I'll be doing while I continue school at Texas this semester. I'm excited to focus on getting my shoulder back to 100 percent and to decide where my next step will be, but I will always be thankful for my opportunity at Texas and be pulling for all of my friends and family in the Longhorns program."
While Gilbert's faults were certainly played out in public — his propensity for turnovers saw him roundly booed before his pulling in the second game of this season — his biggest fault might simply have been timing. The Longhorns, attempting to overcome poor evaluation and attrition on offense, were as low on talent as they had been. And they needed a swashbuckling leader and a game-changer at quarterback to make up for those deficiencies.
Unfortunately, despite the hype that accompanied him since arriving on campus, Gilbert just wasn't that player.
Back before the season started, LonghornDigest.com tracked every Gilbert passing attempt of the 2010 season, finding that when he was put in medium and short situations (read: six yards or less to a first down), Gilbert completed 60 percent of his throws for a 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and he had a better-than-50 percent rate of conversion. Elite numbers for a college quarterback? No. But certainly they served as an indicator that Gilbert could get the job done with adequate support.
A breakdown of his 2011 numbers — admittedly in a limited sample size — showed that he was getting better on first and second downs. On those downs he completed 13-of-20 passes (65 percent) for 225 yards and one touchdown to one interception. His third-down production dipped, though he only threw one pass on third-and-short situations. And it's worth noting that his first-year starting numbers were actually better than those put up by Josh Freeman and Brady Quinn in their first years. So the potential certainly existed for him to continue to grow.
Gilbert's main issue has been, and will likely continue to be, that he's not necessarily the quarterback to carry a team. When forced to make big decisions, he often made the incorrect ones, throwing a bevy of interceptions. Those turnovers were his main issue, and the eventual reason he was pulled in favor of McCoy and Ash, neither of whom have thrown an interception in the two-and-a-half games since replacing Gilbert.
Gilbert's legacy in Austin will be remembered harshly, because five-star players don't get a pass. And fairly or unfairly, he'll be linked with a pair of numbers: 5-7, or the record he had in his one year as a starter, and 17, the number of interceptions he threw that season. Maybe people will even remember the questions about his leadership, or how he wasn't enough of a rah-rah guy.
But the world isn't so black-and-white. How should Gilbert be remembered? Maybe it's as simple as stating that he was a quarterback who might have done well with the superior personnel that the Longhorns had throughout the decade prior. But instead, Gilbert found himself a prisoner of circumstance, the wrong player at the wrong time at the wrong position for a rebuilding Longhorn program.
"Garrett is a terrific young man and we are very appreciative of everything he has done for our program," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "I know this has been a tough decision, and I can't thank him enough for hanging in there, helping the younger guys and being a great team guy even after he hurt his shoulder. We talked about his decision and we all fully support him.
"Whatever school he decides to go to will get a guy who will work as hard as anyone and compete both on the field and in the classroom," Brown said. "He is the type of student-athlete any coach would be proud to have in their program. We wish him the best and will be watching and rooting for him as he continues his college football career and in the future."