Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com


Ankle-gate took another turn on Saturday when the Jaguars announced that Quarterback Byron Leftwich would have surgery on his injured ankle and would return when his recovery was complete. Very unusual to make any kind of announcement on a Saturday and certainly not one a major as the quarterback was out indefinitely.

If you remember, the first we heard about the ankle was when Byron turned up on the injury report out of the blue. “You know when you wake up with a ‘crick’ in your neck,” Head Coach Jack Del Rio said when originally asked about it. “That’s the same thing here but with the ankle.”

He played against Houston and was fairly ineffective in a 27-7 loss. Did the ankle play a role? “It didn’t have anything to do with it,” Leftwich assured us after the game. “I don’t believe it was a factor,” Del Rio echoed in his Monday press conference. “Have you looked at the tape,” was the collective response from the assembled media.

To his credit, Del Rio came back on Wednesday and said the ankle was a factor and that Leftwich and David Garrard would split snaps in practice. Leftwich wasn’t happy and let everybody know through his body language and his locker room demeanor. “I was actually hurt in the Redskins game,” Leftwich revealed the next day. That was news to Del Rio who was clearly miffed when Leftwich changed his story.

On Thursday the media was in the locker room when Leftwich dropped his “I don’t know, but it’s not me” comment when asked about the starting QB situation. “Nobody’s said anything to me,” Garrard said. I asked to speak with Del Rio but was told he was “unavailable.” Very strange. So Garrard was named the starter and promptly played an efficient game against the Eagles and won.

“I’ve played on worse,” Byron kept up the patter and the pressure to get back in the lineup when asked about the ankle.

All of this was against the backdrop of rumors that Leftwich was taking pain pills just to get through practice and wasn’t telling anyone. Garrard started again, and won against Tennessee. Leftwich headed to Birmingham to see the famed Dr. James Andrews at the Andrews clinic, apparently hoping a second opinion on his ankle would force the Jaguars hand and have him back on the field soon. Andrews gave him the opposite diagnosis, saying he had to rest the ankle and get re-evaluated the following week.

And that surgery was an option.

Del Rio confirmed all of that in his weekly press conference, but when asked about it in the locker room, Leftwich gave a terse “I’m not talking about it” response.

Again, silly.

Then the announcement that Leftwich would have surgery this coming Tuesday. I know Byron’s ‘upset because he wanted to play all the time this year, be successful and signed a new contract extension. Without him in the lineup the Jaguars can make some decisions about the QB position into the future.

Is Leftwich done as a quarterback for the Jaguars after 08?

Is Garrard the guy of the future?

None of it has been clear and none is coming into focus any time soon.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Quarterbacks ‘R Us

It might be the most intriguing position in sports.

At quarterback you have to be athletic, smart, communicate well and have a thick skin. You’re the goat when the team loses and the hero when they win. And sometimes you’re the goat when they win but never the hero when they lose.

You’re legacy depends on wins and losses and championships. Stats are fine, but getting into the playoffs and making a name for yourself is what you’ll leave behind in the league.

And there are intangibles at the quarterback position that you can’t quantify.

He has to be a leader, either by what he does or by what he says. The team has to respond to him. For the third week in a row, David Garrard will be the starter for the Jaguars. He’s lost only once as a starter, including two straight wins this year. Garrard is mobile and strong-armed. He might not be as accurate as he’d like, but his production is undeniable.

And Garrard has the intangibles.

The team plays at a different tempo when he’s in the lineup. He’s quick to the line and the team responds to it. And take nothing away from Byron Leftwich. He’s productive and, when healthy, gets the job done.

He also has the intangibles a quarterback needs and the team responds to him, but in a different way. He’s more laid-back. He’s slower and has a different rhythm. So, is one better than another? Depends on whom you ask and who the opponent is.

Last year when Leftwich was hurt, Garrard filled in, helping the Jaguars to the playoffs. They were in a rhythm, Garrard’s rhythm. When Head Coach Jack Del Rio extracted Garrard from the lineup inserting Leftwich, it wasn’t that Leftwich couldn’t play; he disrupted the dynamic of the team. They were in Garrard’s rhythm and had been for about six weeks. Leftwich played OK against the Patriots but the team was out of sync and they were soundly beaten.

This week, Del Rio announced that Garrard would be the starter and qualified it by saying that Leftwich’s ankle was “85 or 90 percent” and that it might “need a clean out procedure” at some point. So it gives Del Rio a reason to keep Garrard in the lineup and follows his philosophy of putting the player in the lineup who give the Jaguars the best chance to win, regardless of position, salary or draft number.

It’s the right call.

The team is in rhythm, they’re winning and finally on Wednesday Leftwich got on message saying that he’d do “anything to help the team win.”

I know Byron wanted to have a big year so he could demand a contract extension but it’s a big, bad world out here among the working folk. Sometimes things don’t work exactly as you’d like. So keep your head up and keep working and something good will happen. Like you’ll be on a playoff team again.

And that ain’t half bad.