JACKSONVILLE FL - NOVEMBER 21: David Garrard #9 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is all smiles after winning a game agaisnt the Cleveland Browns at EverBank Field on November 21 2010 in Jacksonville Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
I see lots of people try to use Sam Bradford as an example to start Blaine Gabbert, and it's one of the most shortsighted things I've ever seen written/said. Just stop, please. They're not in the same situation. Both QBs were spread guys in college, but when the Rams drafted Bradford, he was the number one pick; the consensus top player in the draft and a pro-ready talent. They also had some guy named Kieth Null quarterbacking their team, so it's not like they could have done any worse with Bradford than they already had.
OK, now that I'm done twisting Alfie's words to my devilish whims, I do have a legitimate point to make.
A lot of the talk surrounding Gabbert is misguided. Teams have had great success in recent NFL history playing rookie QBs, however, each case is different. Matt Ryan was taken with pick #3, and Sam Bradford was a #1 pick as was Matt Stafford. Ryan was effective early in his career, but he went to a solid, up and coming team. If you remember, pre-draft day, there were also some wild stories about Ryan. Apparently, in a meeting with the Falcons, they handed him some plays to look at. Later in the interview he popped all of the plays he was given up on the board, then called them with the NFL terminology, broke down options routes etc. Basically, after only seeing plays once, he could run an NFL offense. The "Sam Bradford came from the spread too therefore they are the exact same person and Gabbert should be treated exactly like Bradford" case is also being used as a way of justifying Gabbert being pushed into the starting job.
Just so we are clear here: Gabbert was not the #1 pick. He was not the consensus best QB in the draft class, nor was he the first QB taken. I don't put much stock in this detail, but the last QB drafted at #10 overall was Matt Lienart in 2006. He didn't start his first year and probably never will start in his career. Guys who start their rookie year often do so because there is no better option. Matt Ryan "beat out" Randall Cunningham for his job, Matt Stafford "beat out" Daunte Culpepper and Drew Hanson for his. Josh Freeman, who played this year, beat out Josh Johnson, a fifth round, 2nd year player from San Diego for his job. Who was gonna take that job from him, really?
The Jaguars looked at Gabbert on tape and saw a player with impressive physical tools and really high ceiling. They saw a smart player with the smarts to pick up an NFL system and really master it. I didn't love the guy as a prospect, but I hope that the Jaguars are right. They did not, however, see a pro-ready passer. Even if he was pro-ready, would you play a rookie over an established team leader and five year starter who has consistently performed better than half of the starters in the league while on a rebuilding team. If you said you would play the rookie, you need to consider if you really have the best interest of this franchise in mind.
I agree with Alfie's basic statement which is "Gabbert will start when he's ready." That sounds good to me. Play Garrard this year and if the team really starts stinking (3-6 or worse) then sure, throw the rookie in there, but not game one. Blaine Gabbert is not Sam Bradford. He won't be ready to start by week one.