Whether David Garrard returns as the starter for the rest of the season is irrelevant because it seems almost inevitable that by opening day next season the Jaguars will have new young QB. There are a lot of possibilities for Garrard, he may be cut or traded this offseason, maybe Gene Smith keeps him around as starter until a new young QB is ready to take over, or maybe he stays on as an expensive back-up. No matter what happens to Garrard, the era of David Garrard as our unquestioned starter is over. In this franchises short history there have been 3 separate starting QB Eras, Mark Brunell, Byron Leftwich and David Garrard. Each of these eras have been very different and each has had successful and failure. Let’s take a quick look at each:
Mark Brunell Era (1995-2002): In 1995 Draft the Jaguars traded for Brunell for a 3rd and 5th round picks. By making this trade the Jaguars has put their franchise in the hands of Tom Coughlin and Mark Brunell. This pair would come to define the Jaguars for the next 8 seasons. In the Jaguars first season, Brunell had a solid year throwing for 2168 yards passing, 15 TD’s, 480 rushing yards with 4 rushing TDs and only 7 INT’s. Though the Jaguars would end up with a 4-12 record, Brunell had soon glimpses of the star QB he would become over the next 4 seasons. Over the course of the next 4 seasons Brunell led the Jaguars to two AFC Conference Championships, 4 playoff appearances, and a combined regular season record of 45 – 19. The Brunell led Jaguars in the late 90’s were known for their strong offense with Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell, and Fred Taylor. He was even elected to 3 Pro Bowls in this span. All good things though must come to an end though and starting in 2000 the Jaguars started to decline. The once powerful offense that was top 10 in the league for 4 seasons became averaged a rank of 24th over the next 4 seasons. Brunell’s numbers started to decline slowly due to many factors not all his fault. The Jaguars bad drafting, focusing on defense, and lose of plays such as McCardell and Boselli hurt Brunell. In the end after 3 losing seasons the Jaguars decided to change Head Coaches to Jack Del Rio. When Del Rio came in and drafted Byron Leftwich in the first round, it was all game over for the Mark Brunell Era (He holds the Single Season and Career Passing records)
Best Season: 1996 – 353/557 for 4367 yards, 19 TD’s, 20 INT’s, 396 yards rushing, 3 Rushing TD’s
Best Game: 1996 Divisional Playoff Game Win vs. Broncos. No one expected the Jaguars who at 9-7 and only in their second season as a franchise to make any noise in the playoffs. Mark Brunell helped lead the Jaguars to go on and stun the Broncos 30-27 to make it to the AFC Conference Championship game.
Worst Moment: 1999 AFC Championship Lose to Titans. This was the complete opposite of the 1996 season. Coming into the playoffs with a 14-2 record the Jaguars were heavily favored to make it to the Superbowl. After destroying the Dolphins 62-7 in the Divisional Round the Jaguars seemed unstoppable. Then the Titans came to town and shocked the Jaguars beating them by 17. The loss hurt every Jaguars fan that had their minds set on the Superbowl. After this loss the Jaguars would never have a winning season with Brunell at QB again.
Stats: Mark Brunell's Stats
Byron Leftwich Era (2003 – 2006): With new head coach Jack Del Rio at the helm the Jaguars drafted Leftwich 7th overall in the 2003 draft. Leftwich who was expected to take over for Mark Brunell started the 2003 season on the bench so he could adjust before taking the starting job. It only took 4 weeks before Leftwich was given a chance to start though. A combination of injuries to Brunell and Del Rio’s desire to get his new QB playing time made Leftwich the Jaguars starter in week 4. In week 5 of 2003, Leftwich was able to give the Jaguars its first win of the season and went on to finish 5 – 8 as starter. This decent start help to give Jaguars fans hope that Leftwich would develop into a future star QB. Leftwich though would slowly be plagued more and more by injuries, missing 17 games over the next 3 seasons. In 2005, Leftwich led the Jaguars to an 8 – 3 start which put the Jaguars in perfect position for a playoff run. An another injury forced Leftwich to sit the final 5 games of the season allowing David Garrard, the long-time back-up, the chance to take over. Garrard won 4 out the 5 remaining games and helped bring the Jaguars to the playoffs. With Leftwich now healthy again however Del Rio decided to give Leftwich the starting QB role for the playoff game which turned costly for the Jaguars lost to the patriots 28 – 3. The 2006 season and 2007 pre-season would end up being a constant fight between Leftwich and Garrard for the starting job and end with an average 8 – 8 record for 2006. In the end Leftwich was cut days before the 2007 season and Garrard was given the starting role even after Del Rio had stated that Leftwich would be the unquestioned starter. The Leftwich Era started quickly, ended just as quickly, and was highlighted by only 1 playoff appearance in his short 4 seasons as QB. Leftwich may have been better but injuries, inconsistent play, and more poor Jaguars drafting (Reggie Williams, Matt Jones after Jimmy Smith’s retirement) doomed this former top 10 pick.
Best Season: 2005 – 175/302 for 2123 yards, 15 TD’s and 5 INT’s in only 11 games
Best Game: 2005 Week 11 Win vs. Titans. The Jaguars came into this game 7-3 compared to the Titans 2-8 but the Titans put up a strong fight. The Jaguars rushing game was non-existent with Taylor and Greg Jones combining for only 25 yards. Leftwich though posted statiscally one of his best games. Throwing for 258 yards, 3 TD’s and rushing for another TD. Leftwich carried the Jaguars on his back and looked like a real MVP in this win.
Worst Moment: 2005 Wild Card Loss to the Patriots. The Jaguars had cruised to a 12 – 4 regular season record and Byron Leftwich though injured for the last 5 games had been a big part of the reason for the Jaguars success. Del Rio gave Leftwich back his starting job for this game but it ended up blowing up in his face. The Leftwich led Jaguars looked lost and completely overmatched. They ended up losing 28 – 3, not the result anyone was looking for.
Stats: Byron Leftwich's Stats
David Garrard Era (2007 – 2010): After years of being the back-up QB for Brunell and Leftwich, David Garrard was given the starting job only days before the 2007 season. Garrard was put under a lot of pressure right away after the cutting of Leftwich and in his first season he delivered. Though he started the season with a loss to the Titans, Garrard went on to lead the Jaguars to an 11 – 5 record in his first season at Quarterback. Garrard though injured for a portion of the season (3 games) put on clinic in good decision making with 155 straight passes without an interception. Garrard led the Jaguars to their second playoff appearance under Jack Del Rio but this time delivered a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers to give the Jaguars their first playoff win since 1999. The Jaguars would go on to lose to the New England Patriots who were coming off their 16 – 0 season but overall the fan base and the franchise seemed reenergized by the new Garrard led Jaguars. The start of the 2008 season though would see everything start to fall apart for Garrard and the Jaguars. A series of injuries to the offensive line caused Garrard to find himself constantly under pressure and being hit. Between a weak offensive line and a weak wide receiver unit, the Jaguars offense severely struggled and the team finished a disappointing 5 – 11. With a new GM in Gene Smith the Jaguars attempted to get weapons and protection for Garrard in 2009 with their first two picks being tackles and picking up free-agent Tory Holt. Garrard and the Jaguars started the season 7 – 5 and looked like they had a strong chance of making it back to the playoffs with Garrard and new starting RB Maurice Jones-Drew both playing well. The Jaguars though failed to deliver and Garrard had 3 terrible performances in the final 4 games culminating in an embarrassing loss to Cleveland to end the season. With another losing season Garrard was squarely put on the hot seat going into the 2010 season. So far into the 2010 season Garrard has been a rollercoaster, some games he has been excellent and others have been painful to watch. After the recent ugly loss to the Titans, David Garrard may not start again. We will see whether the Garrard Era continues but most agree that by the end of the season DG will probably be gone.
Best Season: 2007 – 208/325 for 2509 yards, 18 TD’s and only 3 INT’s.
Best Game: 2007 Wild Card Playoff Win vs. Steelers – Though David Garrard did not have statistically the best game of his career (9/21 for 140, 1 TD, 2 INT). He will always be remembered for his 32 yard 4th down run that would set up the game winning field goal and give the Jaguars their first playoff win in 8 years.
Worst Moment: (Tie) All 3 loses in 2010. This is a tie in my book because both all of these loses have been absolute massacres for the Jaguars and with his job on the hot seat, Garrard played terribly in each. He has combined for 6 INT’s and only 1 TD (which was in garbage time). With all eyes on him on Monday Night Football, Garrard just looked terrible and ended up leaving the game with a concussion. He needed to deliver to keep his job, he simply didn’t.
Stats: David Garrard's Stats