Del Rio's Future Riding on QB's

The Jaguars failed to fix their quarterback situation in the offseason and now they're paying the price for that mistake.

Even though Byron Leftwich missed the last 10 games with an ankle injury and underwent surgery, they named him the starter in February. They kept David Garrard as the backup and Quinn Gray as the third-string quarterback.

They went with the status quo and that decision has blown up on them.

If they'd cut Leftwich in February, they could have brought in a veteran like Jeff Garcia, who will start against them Sunday in Tampa Bay, or David Carr, who went to Carolina as the backup.

And they could have drafted Notre Dame's Brady Quinn instead of bypassing him in the first round.

The folly of that strategy was evident when Leftwich played so poorly in training camp that coach Jack Del Rio cut him nine days before camp opened.

And they didn't sign another veteran like Vinny Testaverde, who went to Carolina a week ago and won a game in Arizona with three days of practice, after they cut Leftwich.

They were fortunate that Garrard played well in his first five starts and took the team to a 4-1 record.

But then disaster struck in the sixth game Monday night against Indianapolis when Garrard went down with a high-ankle sprain that will sideline him three or four games, if not more.

Their only alternative was Gray, who threw two interceptions against the Colts in a 29-7 loss and an 11.1 quarterback rating.

Gray was originally signed as an undrafted free agent in 2002 by former coach Tom Coughlin and was cut. Del Rio re-signed him in 2003 and he's hung around four years as the third-string backup. But nobody thought of him as a potential starter.

The Jaguars, one of 14 teams to carry two quarterbacks at the start of the season, now have no alternative but to give Gray his first NFL start Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Rookie Lester Ricard is on the practice squad, but he's not ready. And they signed Todd Bouman, who was one of three veterans brought it for workouts Wednesday along with Drew Henson and Doug Johnson.

The play at New Orleans and Tennessee the next two weeks. That stretch could make or break their season.

And Del Rio's coaching career.

He needs to at least get a wild-card playoff spot if he's to survive another season as the Jaguars' head coach.

His future is now riding on how Gray plays.

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