This is part three of my six article breakdown of the performance of the Jaguars roster based on performance, statistics and the all important eyeball test.
Oh, what a happy coincidence that my article on the Jaguars' quarterback situation is slated for the day that a massive argument breaks out on the site about David Garrard's place on the team. I know that this article is now going to be splattered with pro- and anti- Garrard postings, but I want to stress that public perception of a certain player will not affect my analysis of a player's on-field production. Consider this my personal scouting report. Take a deep breath, clear your mind of bias as much as is possible, and let's make the jump.
What did I see during the year? It seemed to me all season that David Garrard, when comfortable, has an exceptional throwing arm within 40 yards. He clearly took the time in the offseason to work on his accuracy and it showed. He can make any throw in the world within that range. All season, he was throwing laserbeams at his backs and receivers. He throws a great slant pass, shows good anticipation on his receivers' routes, and has progressed a lot in terms of finding his second and third receivers. With that said, of his 15 interceptions, I felt like 9 of them were the results of bad throws, and 6 of them were the result of bad decisions. A quarterback needs to have his head together to play really well, and the hits he was taking week in and week out clearly made Garrard less effective as the season wore on.
Garrard had issues with completing deep passes all year. he seemed to think twice before ever throwing a deep pass, and often underthrew his receivers or missed altogether on passes beyond 40 yards. That was the one part of his game that I would call bad. Not everyone has the arm strength to get the ball down field. While Garrard, in theory, does, he legitimately struggled getting the ball downfield, and it wasn't because of his receivers.
He, over his 7 best games, threw for 18 TDs and 3 INTs. In those games he was sacked 1.57 times per game. The other seven games, when he threw for 5 TDs and 12 INTs, he was sacked twice as often per game. One of the "other seven" games was Tennessee, where he left in the first quarter and was not ever officially sacked. If you don't believe that correlation, let's look at every game where Garrard had a QB rating of under 90 and see how his sacked numbers relate.
San Diego, Week 2: 1 TD, 4 INTs, sacked: 2, 62.7 rating
Philidelphia, Week 3: 0 TD, 1 INT, sacked: 7, 38.9 rating
Cleveland, Week 11: 2 TD, 3 INTs, sacked: 4, 65.1 rating
NY Giants, Week 12: 0 TD, 1 INT, sacked: 4, 57.1 rating
Washington, Week 16: 1 TD, 2 INTs, sacked: 4, 70.0 rating
In his worst performances, Garrard's average was 21/5 or 4.25 sacks taken per game. There are some abberations in this data, most notably San Diego (only two sacks but a 62.7 rating) and Dallas (3 sacks taken but a 157.8 rating), but the general trend is that keeping Garrard clean makes him a better QB.
What I take away from this year is that Garrard has clearly progressed as a passer from 2007 to today. He is no longer simple a game manager who is just supposed to not screw up, but a player who is trusted with moving the ball when it counts. I'd much rather see the kind of stats we got this year than the kind Garrard put up in '07, because quite honestly, our offense in '07 was as explosive as a wet rag.
Others: Luke McCown was competent in clean up duty during week two. He came in when the game was already over and then went down with a season-ender. He was effective in the 2nd half of his first three preseason games, however, the only preseason game where he saw first half action was against Atlanta, where he was 5-12 for 39 yards and earned a 50.3 passer rating. He didn't look like a starter...
Trent Edwards: I'm willing to give this guy another shot if necessary, but he was not especially effective as a passer. He didn't know the playbook, but he also just looked uncomfortable in the pocket, and did not throw the ball very well. I was disappointed by his performance. Todd Bouman was a last resort. He will not be relied on for any reason outside of massive casualties at the QB position.
All in all, the Jaguars need to address the future of the QB position. The present is set with Garrard returning, but at 33, Garrard can't tank through another 3 or 4 seasons. He'll likely be around for only one more year while we draft and train his replacement. I don't know who that replacement will be, but depending on how next season goes, whichever rookie the Jaguars take (and I am sincerely hoping that they do take a QB fairly early) could see the field before the season is two-thirds over. Garrard is, IMO, above average for an NFL QB in terms of arm strength, accuracy, and ability to run an offense. He will not be here for much longer, though.
UPDATE: What I will take away from today's poll extravaganza is that very few people voted that they thought David Garrard was too bad to be the Jaguars starting QB next year. I think from that we can establish that people are not rejecting Garrard's production entirely, but just wishing that the team finds someone better. I am entirely on board with that idea.