Jaguar Quarterbacks: The Order of Things

With rumors rampant about the Jaguars looking to bolster their quarterback depth in the way of soon-to-be ex-Dolphins quarterback Daunte Culpepper, it raises some questions about some of the quarterbacks already on the Jaguars roster. Behind starter Byron Leftwich, there is David Garrard, who is effective in spurts, but is soon figured out by opposing defenses the more games he plays in.

After Garrard, there is the enigma that is Quinn Gray. Quinn Gray is the proverbial diamond in the rough quarterback many teams like to keep around. Gray has prototypical quarterback size at 6' 4", 245 lbs. (though it's rumored he had come into camp around 270 lbs.) and has a very strong arm.

Gray came to the Jaguars in 2002 as an undrafted rookie free agent from Florida A&M. In his college days, Gray was a very productive quarterback. Gray racked up over 2,700 passing yards and 19 touchdowns in his senior season, which garnered him moderate NFL attention. Former Jaguars head coach and GM, Tom Coughlin brought Quinn Gray in camp initially as a camp arm, but Gray impressed so much that he found a spot on the Jaguars practice squad. In 2003, under the new regime of Jack Del Rio and James Harris, Gray was signed off the practice squad and sent to NFL Europe where he lead the Frankfurt Galaxy to a World Bowl Championship. In 2004, Quinn Gray won the third string quarterback job with the Jaguars and was active for all 16 games, though he saw no game action. In 2005, Gray impressed during the preseason, showing off his arm and his ability to command the offense down the field. Gray received his first real game action in the season finale against the Tennessee Titans, and he impressed many onlookers, by showing off his arm and passing skills. He came in after the half and completed 8 of 14 passes, throwing for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. The most memorable toss was a beautiful over-the-shoulder 14 yard touchdown pass to Ernest Wilford in which Gray showed tremendous touch. In 2006, Quinn Gray once again saw playing time in the season finale when David Garrard was benched after throwing an interception leading to a Kansas City touchdown. Gray came into the game and immediately led the Jaguars on two long scoring drives using both his arm and his legs. In the game, Gray finished 13/22 passes, 166 yards, and two rushing touchdowns.

Coming into the 2007 season, the only sure thing in the Jaguars quarterback situation is that Byron Leftwich will be the opening day starter, assuming he's healthy. In 2006, the big camp battle was between Leftwich and David Garrard, who led the team to a 4-1 record in relief of the injured Leftwich. While this battle was being staged, third string quarterback Quinn Gray was making his push to move up the depth chart. Ultimately, the depth chart was its usual Byron, David, and Quinn, but in 2007, don't be surprised if there is a swap in the order.

In 2006, David Garrard saw extended playing time, and showed a lot of his limitations that have kept him as a career backup. But when Quinn Gray saw his late season playing time, he was effective and impressive in his limited action. Gray showed an ability to do what David Garrard was struggling to do, and what the coaches say Byron Leftwich does so well, he scanned the field. In a game in which the passing game looked so anemic, Quinn Gray came into the game and was able to throw the ball down the field. Reggie Williams, who was virtually invisible most of the game, and most of the season while Garrard was quarterback, ended the game with 6 catches for 90 yards, most of which came under Quinn Gray throwing the ball.

Even though Gray has had very limited opportunities, it can't be overlooked that every time Quinn Gray has seen live action in a regular season NFL game, he's produced. His career stats show that he has completed 21/36 passes for 266 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 100.0. While these numbers are a bit skewed because he played against unprepared defenses, it still makes you wonder what he could do with more time under center. After what he did in the Kansas City game at the end of the year and against Tennessee in 2005, it makes one wonder what the outcome of the Jaguars season would have been had Quinn Gray started those 10 games Byron Leftwich missed, instead of David Garrard who went .500 in that stretch, resulting in an 8-8 season.

Quinn Gray is commonly referred to by Jaguar fans as "Byron Leftwich's head and arm with David Garrard's legs", or "the poor man's Donovan McNabb". While I wouldn't dare mention Gray in the same sentence as McNabb, he is known as an extensive note taker, and is said to pick up the offense very quickly. David Garrard had his chance in the spotlight and he fumbled and intercepted it away, quite literally. There is a reason the Jaguars have held on to Quinn Gray for so long, and there's a reason why they gave Gray a second round tender. Gray may have the most upside of any quarterback on the Jaguars roster, and if he wins the backup quarterback position, like I expect, the Jaguars could already have been grooming their quarterback of the future, right now. Quinn has out-played David Garrard in the preseason the past two years, and with the emphasis on passing the ball down the field, I expect it to be no different. Don't be surprised when the opening day depth chart comes out, and it's Quinn Gray with the headset on, and David Garrard holding the third string clipboard.

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