Who is this guy, anyway?

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard has quietly been one of the most efficient players at his position in the National Football League this season. But who the heck is he?

PITTSBURGH – He's got a passer rating higher than Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning and has thrown just one interception in 274 pass attempts this season.

And if you asked people outside of Jacksonville who David Garrard is, they'd be just as likely to say he's one of the seemingly 3,000 people running for president next year than the correct answer.

But the quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars is playing better than anyone at the positon this season not named Tom Brady and has been a big reason why the team is 9-4 and close to clinching a spot in the AFC playoffs.

"I've got a lot of respect for that guy," said Roethlisberger, who will lead the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-4) against the Jaguars Sunday at Heinz Field.

"He's a good guy and he's doing an unbelievable job. He's taken what they've given him and he's making plays. He's doing a good job for his team. He's doing exactly what they need him to do. He sat behind Byron (Leftwich) and learned and now he's getting his time to shine."

In fact, Garrard, a fourth-round pick in 2002 out of East Carolina, was supposed to be sitting behind Leftwich, the team's top pick in 2003, again this season. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, who had benched and injured and ineffective Leftwich last season after six games in favor of Garrard, announced in that Leftwich would be the team's starter in 2007.

"Jack called me up and said I'm naming Byron the starter and there's not going to be any competing for it," Garrard recalled Wednesday. "And I told him that I was upset about the decision and I told him that I felt like I had done enough last year to at least compete for the job and I knew that I didn't finish strong like I wanted to but I felt like I had done enough to at least compete."

The setback was nothing new for Garrard. He lost his mother to breast cancer as a teen and had a section of his intestines removed in 2004 when he was diagnosed with Crohn's disease.

When Garrard outplayed Leftwich in the 2007 preseason, Del Rio did an about face, releasing Leftwich Aug. 31 and naming Garrard the team's starting quarterback.

All Garrard has done since then is complete nearly 66 percent of his passes for 2,113 yards with 13 touchdown passes and just one interception in 10 starts. He missed three games with a severely sprained ankle.

Not bad for a guy who entered the season with a career completion percentage of less than 60 percent with 18 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions in 28 games.

"I believe he can be a real good football player," said Del Rio of Garrard, who's now in his sixth season in the NFL. "He has probably ascended a little quicker than I had thought. I ultimately believe that he's got the ability to play at a high level in this league."

He's certainly done that this season, as his one interception in nearly 300 passes would attest. Despite their No. 1 overall defensive ranking, the Steelers would seem unlikely to add to that total.

Pittsburgh has just eight interceptions this season, including two in its past seven games.

"I think there is always some good fortune when you end up with numbers as good as they are," said Del Rio of Garrard's lack of interceptions. "Certainly he's an accurate passer, he's good mechanically. He's doing a nice job working through his progressions and delivering the football to the appropriate guys. He has grown up as a quarterback."

And he's done it without anyone who would be considered a star receiver.

Cleveland castoff Dennis Northcutt leads Jacksonville with 39 catches, which ranks 36th in the AFC. Ernest Wilford and tight end Mercedes Lewis have 35 catches each, while Reggie Williams has 31 to go along with a team-high seven touchdown catches. Nobody else has more than three touchdown receptions.

"I think that is a really good thing because it doesn't allow defenses to key into one guy," said Garrard. "You'll see a lot of times where you get your breakdown because this is your go-to guy, take him away and there really isn't anybody else. … I think that anybody that runs out there and gets open is my No. 1 guy."

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.

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