If there is one thing to like about Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert so far in his six games in the NFL, it's the fact that he doesn't make excuses for his poor play. Gabbert's play seemed to peak against the Cincinnati Bengals and has regressed since then. Yesterday against the Houston Texans, Gabbert had in my opinion his worst day in the NFL and it wasn't because of his two interceptions. Gabbert's patience in the pocket seemed to wain faster than normal after the shot he took to the ribs and he routinely threw behind his receivers as opposed to normally leading them too far. On a couple of plays as well, he predetermined where he was going.
"Growing pains?" Gabbert said to reporters after the game. "That's an excuse. I don't like to make excuses. This team doesn't like to make excuses. That just shows that you're a weak person. We don't make excuses here. We expect to perform at our best week in and week out regardless of the circumstances."
Gabbert has the talent you look for in a franchise quarterback. He's smart, he has a very good arm, he's got great size, and he's athletic. He's also got the type of competitive mentality that you look for from your quarterback. He does have some major issues, however.
Gabbert's footwork is piss poor, to be perfectly honest. While he's suffered from drops and has played behind a make shift offensive line for much of his games, he's still just flat out missing guys because of his footwork. That's going to happen, though. These are the kind of growing pains you're going to have to go through with a rookie quarterback. It's clear what Gabbert needs to work on. He throws off his back foot more often than he should, which causes his passes to sail. He's still getting used to dealing with NFL pressure, and he rushes some throws.
Part of the problem is the success of rookie quarterbacks on other teams. Cam Newton is lighting up stat sheets, Andy Dalton is winning football games, and in two starts Christian Ponder nearly beat the Green Bay Packers in a comeback and won his next start. The other rookie quarterbacks look good more often than they look bad. Gabbert on the other hand, has looked bad and can't even light up the stat sheet. With those others, two of which the Jaguars picked Gabbert over, having success it makes being patient that much more difficult.
The rush to declare Gabbert a bust already is silly, however. I recall pre and post-draft, many opining that Gabbert (or a rookie in general) quarterback shouldn't start and that he needed to sit for a season. Well, it worked out to where Gabbert is starting and learning on the job. If you were in the camp who felt like he needed to sit a year, aren't you getting exactly what you thought you would get?
As Mark Long of the AP said to me on twitter when I said writing off Gabbert now was ridiculous, "Shouldn't even think about the B(us) word until he gets better coaching, better receivers and intact O-line. Strange to see what is shaping up to be a project QB taken at No. 10. We're seeing why Car, Den, Cin, Ariz, SF & Tenn (teams seemingly w/ QB needs at the time) all passed on him. It seems a little like boom or bust. But again, can't judge until he gets better coaching/WRs."
Gabbert just turned 22 years old and left school as a redshirt sophomore. He's got plenty of room to grow. No one should be shocked by his struggles during the season. Yes, I realize I was one of the biggest advocates of drafting a quarterback and starting them right out of the gate, but nothing that's happened has changed my opinion on that. I expected Gabbert to struggle. You could see his footwork problems in training camp and in the preseason. I knew the possibility of the rookie stinking was greater than the chances of him having success, but I also didn't feel (still don't) this football team was making the playoffs no matter the quarterback.
The only thing that can really make it better is for Dirk Koetter to tailor the offense more to what Gabbert was comfortable with at Missouri, but even that isn't going to help much. The offense as a whole is still woefully undermanned at the play-maker positions outside of Maurice Jones-Drew. As bad as most of us thought the wide receivers were on the Jaguars, they're worse. Pair that with a rookie quarterback who's raw, mechanically, and it's a recipe for what you're getting right now.
"Speaking for all quarterbacks, we expect to come in here and succeed," Gabbert said after the game. "Of course there's going to be ups and downs. You gotta learn from them and get better."
There's no easy fix, however. We're just going to have to ride it out.