Inside Slant / David Garrard

David Garrard has been hiding in plain sight the past five seasons.

The first four seasons of the Jack Del Rio regime, the Jaguars message was they wanted Byron Leftwich instead of Garrard. They drafted Leftwich on the first round in 2003 and even though Garrard had a 4-1 finish in 2005, Del Rio started Leftwich with an air cast on his ailing ankle in a playoff game in New England that the Jaguars lost.

Last season, Garrard started the last 10 games, but lost the last three and Del Rio benched him for Quinn Gray in the second half of the season finale in Kansas City. And then in February, he named Leftwich the starter.

Del Rio admitted he was impressed with the way Garrard handled all of those situations.

"I think the most impressive thing about it for me is the way he continued to work on his trade. He conducted himself with great class and respect for his teammates. A lot of guys would get impatient or upset or feel frustrated at not getting it the way they want it immediately, and act differently and it would then hinder their ability to develop. I think he's continued to do the right things," Del Rio said.

The perseverance paid off when he outplayed Leftwich in the preseason and Del Rio finally figured he had to go with the quarterback who was playing the best.

In effect, he was putting his future in Garrard's hands because he has to make the playoffs to keep his job this year.

Garrard's numbers weren't gaudy, but he directed the team to a 23-14 victory over Denver Sunday to put the team at 2-1 going into the bye week. He passed for only 154 yards, but he also ran for 52 yards and he directed an 18-play touchdown drive in the first quarter. He's yet to throw an interception this year and his 103.8 quarterback rating is seventh in the NFL, right behind Peyton Manning and right in front of Ben Roethlisberger.

His play also won plaudits from Del Rio at his Monday press conference.

When he was asked why Garrard is playing better, Del Rio said, "He's always had a good quick release, a good quick stroke. He's always had some escape ability. I think what's happening right now is David's gaining new confidence. I think he's become a little more accurate and a little more certain of where he's going to go with the ball."

Now the question is whether he can keep playing this way after the bye.

The future of Del Rio and Garrard in Jacksonville rests on the answer.

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