It's become fairly obvious to anyone with eyes or ears on Jaguars camp that there is a quarterback competition underway. This competition didn't begin four weeks ago when camp started, but last December when incumbent David Garrard couldn't lead the team to the division title with a victory in Indianapolis. Although we didn't know who Garrard would be competing with, the sentiment for change grew stronger the following week when the Jaguars quarterback threw an interception in overtime which led to a loss to the lowly Washington Redskins, pretty much ending the Jaguars hopes of the postseason.
In the New York Times Jaguars preview, writer Andy Benoit explains how in the Indianapolis game it became painfully obvious to everyone that Garrard isn't the guy nor will he ever be the guy who can lead a team deep into the postseason.
Here's an excerpt: This problem was like credit card debt: symptomatic of bigger issues. Down by 10 with just under two minutes left – that's when you call on your quarterback. It's a steep uphill climb, no doubt, but it's not impossible. The Jaguars learned on that December day in Indianapolis what they probably already knew deep down: they didn't have someone to call on. It would have been better if Garrard had thrown a deep interception on first-and-10. At least then he would have been striving for the climb. Instead, he whimpered out with safe but irrelevant dinks-and-dunks. It's not that Garrard didn't have heart or confidence – it's that he didn't know any other way to play.
The Jaguars front office, having access to 20/20 vision and game tape came to this very conclusion and on draft day were able to trade up with the Washington Redskins to select Blaine Gabbert. Although all it cost them was a second-round pick, the team likely would've moved Heaven and Earth to get their quarterback of the future, possibly the very near future.
Fast forward to the beginning of training camp with David Garrard taking most of the first team snaps. The veteran, entering his 10th season was shaky at best and clearly outplayed by the rookie who didn't have the benefit of throwing to any of his current receivers nor did he have any coaching during the offseason. In fact Garrard was clearly the third best quarterback on the roster behind Luke McCown.
If you're thinking that the first week or so of training camp doesn't matter, you're probably right. Although it does show which players may have worked out on their own and which didn't.
In the second week of camp, Garrard went down with a sore back, an injury that he blamed on the lockout, not having the team's medical facilities to utilize. While that is true, Garrard has made nearly $40 million over the past three seasons so the cost of a good chiropractor is likely within his budget.
The injury cost Garrard the preseason opener in which rookie Blaine Gabbert started against the winningest team in the NFL's regular season from a year ago. Gabbert didn't light up the scoreboard but he was composed and showed some nice flashes of what Jaguars fans can expect in the future.
"He did some decent things directing the team down the field," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said after the game. "You know, didn't look like he was in awe or that the situation was too big for him."
Garrard got his shot in Friday's win over Atlanta and on the team's first offensive possession Garrard made a bad read and threw a bad interception.
An interception during the first possession of Garrard's first preseason game isn't a cause for concern, not at all. The Jags ended up winning the meaningless game and one could chalk it up to rust. Even taking the competition into account, an interception still isn't the worst thing in the world.
What happened afterwards is a clear signal of why the Jaguars need to move in a different direction.
On the next offensive possession, Garrard rolled out and saw tight end Marcedes Lewis and wide receiver Jason Hill wide open. Instead of throwing the ball and risking a second interception, Garrard pulled the ball down and took three hits before gaining six yards.
The 10-year veteran was so afraid of making a mistake, he failed to make the right play. This type of play persisted throughout his time in the game until he came off the field in favor of Blaine Gabbert.
What's more disturbing of his performance is how he reacted following the game. When asked about the interception, this was Garrard's response.
"We got the right coverage it's a simple tech-4 and the safety came down hard and my job is to throw it three yards inside the hash and trust that my wide receiver is going to be there with the coverage they had with the corner, he was a little high," Garrard said of wide receiver Mike Thomas.
"That's just a situation where the wide receiver right there, if he feels like if it's a ball that he might not be able to catch, he just has to go knock it down if anything. I can help Mike by not throwing the ball up for him but we want to take shots," added Garrard.
Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio thought differently of Garrard's decision.
"I don't want the ball turned over," Del Rio said. "We've got to make sure that we're doing things the right way, and if we're going to take shots down the field and they're not there, we need to check them down."
Garrard's performance on Friday night was typical of his career. A few good throws, a horrible decision, then blaming someone else for mistakes. How is the team supposed to look at Garrard as a leader if he refuses to take responsibility?
"We have the same system, we have the same quarterback, we have the same players. We should expect to play at a higher level. I expect us to play at a higher level and now would be a good time," Del Rio said.
Unfortunately this isn't the first time Garrard has thrown a teammate under the proverbial bus to absolve himself from blame. In a preseason game a few years ago Garrard talked about his poor protection on a television interview on the sideline. Just last year after throwing the game-losing overtime interception against Washington, Garrard explained away the bad decision by being "hit as he threw". Video evidence proved otherwise. Even in the aftermath of Garrard's hail mary against Houston last season, the Jaguars quarterback explained in the post-game press conference that he was just hoping the defensive back wouldn't catch the ball, just knock it down (to protect the all-important passer rating).
Although the Jaguars players publicly say they don't care who starts at quarterback, wide receiver Jason Hill claims that Blaine Gabbert has "it."
"You just felt something about him. It's something about him that being in San Francisco I didn't have, David shows it from time to time, but in that one instance he showed it and moreso than anything he does out on the field I think that to me said he's going to be something," Hill told reporters.
David Garrard has proven himself to be a very average quarterback who succeeds only when everything around him is nearly perfect. When it isn't perfect, he is quick to point out those who didn't do their jobs, unless it's himself.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and the host of "The Sports Crunch" on the Aquarius 7 Broadcasting Network (national), and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie
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