Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Put Gabbert In

After 6 weeks of camp and exhibition games, practices and meetings it was pretty clear that Luke McCown had played his way into the mix as the best quarterback on the Jaguars roster. McCown had produced when he was on the field in games, he was sharp in practices and the guys on the team liked his football acumen. “Ball out” is his nickname for how he makes quick decisions and is willing to throw into tight spots.

That left the Jaguars management and coaching staff with a dilemma: What to do with Luke McCown?

It didn’t make sense to sit him on the bench and with the heir apparent in the wings and just waiting to play. He was worth a draft pick if they wanted to trade him but the dilemma was complicated by the poor play of the incumbent starter, David Garrard.

Head Coach Jack Del Rio told us going into the third exhibition game that “now would be a good time” for the quarterback and the offense to start showing some production. Del Rio had met with Garrard earlier to encourage him to pick up the tempo and “get it going” since David had struggled from the beginning of camp.

But that never happened.

So faced with that decision, and knowing that Blaine Gabbert was going to be your starter at some point either sooner or later, Garrard became the expendable player. They knew the upside on Garrard. He had reached the pinnacle of his ability and what that produced was average results in the NFL.

It’s hard to say why he plateaued out so quickly after signing a new contract following the 2007 season but for a guy who was talked about in the next breath after Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, he never elevated his game again. Maybe he was satisfied after he “got his money” or maybe he started to believe he was better just because everybody said he was next in line. But whatever it was, the Jaguars couldn’t count on him getting any better;

With a $9 million price tag the Jaguars couldn’t sit him on the bench, so they cut him. It wasn’t about money, or they’d have never let Garrard take the field in the pre-season. They had the perfect excuse when he strained his back in practice and missed the opener. If he had gotten hurt playing in an exhibition, they’d been on the hook for $9 million and out a quarterback.

So McCown earns the starting spot and plays well enough to beat the Tennessee Titans in game one of the regular season. “He’s not ready,” is the response given when asked about Gabbert’s debut in the NFL.

One thing’s for sure again in 2011 on offense for the Jaguars: they’re not going to the playoffs through the quarterback position. The QB wasn’t going to get them into the post-season but he could keep them from getting there. They’re a run-first; stop the run team that wants Maurice Jones Drew to handle the ball about 25 times a game among their 35 or so rushes.

In a battle for the starting QB job in Tampa Bay, Luke McCown lost out to Byron Leftwich. That made him expendable in Tampa and the Jaguars acquired him for a 7th round pick. The rap on McCown was that he was skittish and inconsistent. He didn’t show any of that in his time in Jacksonville: until Sunday against the Jets. When things starting going downhill, they snowballed and got worse. McCown reverted to the player they thought he was in Tampa when they got rid of him.

Which brings us to the dawning to a new era in Jaguars history: The Gabbert era.

If you’re going to run the offense the Jaguars run, handing it off and throwing safe bubble screens and slants, then let the rookie do it. The Jaguars believed Gabbert was the best player in the draft last year. They just happened to get him with the 10th pick. It was evident when he went in the game last Sunday against the Jets, albeit a bit late, that he can play. He has quick feet, a quick release, makes fast decisions and can fire it. He didn’t like getting hit in the backfield but who does?

So put Gabbert in the game.

If he gets overwhelmed, sit him down for a couple of weeks. But put him in the game and see what he can do. It’ll create an ancillary excitement about a season that’s already been written off as average at best.

He’s a first round pick. Let him play like one.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com


I’m sure you know what Tony Boselli, Fred Taylor, David Garrard, Kyle Brady, Mike Peterson and even Byron Leftwich have in common. All were either unceremoniously cut or dumped from the Jaguars when they seemed to have some productive years left in their NFL careers. Stars at one point while playing in Jacksonville, they all were considered expendable and sent on their way.

Boselli was exposed to the expansion draft, they didn’t think Taylor could be a back up so they cut him; Garrard was shoved out by a first round pick. Brady fell out of favor with the coaching staff and ended up on a Super Bowl team in New England. Mike P questioned Jack Del Rio and was allowed to move on. He is still starting for the Falcons. Leftwich wasn’t cutting it according to the coaching staff and wouldn’t react well to a demotion.

Whether their assessment of a player’s skills was correct or not, when a team is done with you, they’re done. No niceties in this business. It’s pretty cut and dried when they call you in and tell you you’re services are no longer needed. Sometimes it’s a classic “Coach wants to see you and bring your playbook.” Sometimes they grab you after a meeting or after practice and tell you you’re gone. It’s not a long process and it can be a combustible situation.

There are stories about the player taking a swing at a coach. Or verbally dressing him down. I came across the Jaguars player personnel guy in his office once with a player signing his “separation” papers at his desk. With security standing guard outside the hall just in case and to provide an escort out of the building.

When you look at that short list of players, you could make an argument that most were done and spent the last few years of their careers just hanging on. How they cut Garrard was pretty harsh, and not right, just 5 days before the season. Same thing with Leftwich just before the opener. But it underscores the harsh nature of professional sports. You’re in it until somebody else says you’re not. And when you’re out, you’re gone.

It’s no wonder the players are so focused and intent on keeping their jobs. They know they’re one play away from it being over.

Have you ever been fired? I have, and it’s no fun no matter how they handle it. Recently in radio I was fired via text! That’s not harsh, that’s just cowardly. In pro sports they’ll look you in the eye at least and tell you you’re done. But when they’re done with you, they’re done.