Whenever the labor dispute gets resolved, assuming the NFL will have a season in 2011 and training camp will start on time... There is going to be a raging debate amongst fans about the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011.
Do you sit Blaine Gabbert or do you start Blaine Gabbert?
In the old days of the NFL, like when Joe Fisher was a kid, it was common practice for a young quarterback to sit and learn for a few seasons before ultimately taking over the starting role. That's gone by the wayside a bit in the modern NFL, but there are still multiple examples of quarterbacks sitting for at least a season and then taking the reins. Players like Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Freeman, and Eli Manning all sat for at least a portion of their rookie seasons prior to playing at the NFL level. All four of those are successful quarterbacks.
Another reason it would behoove the Jaguars to sit Gabbert behind David Garrard is the current lockout situation. Right about now under normal circumstances, the Jaguars would be participating in mini-camp. The players would begin their off-season work, get playbooks, begin to work with their receivers and teammates. With the loss of mini-camp, we're also likely to lose Organized Team Activities (OTA's). OTA's, or as I like to call it "passing camp", is vital for quarterbacks and receivers, especially rookies. It allows the players to develop a rapport in the passing game.
With the loss of mini-camp and the likely loss of OTA's, it puts Blaine Gabbert at a severe disadvantage and makes his already steep learning curve that much sharper. Not only that, but sometimes when you throw a rookie into the fire it can damage them permanently. David Carr started before the team was ready for him for the Houston Texans and took 76 sacks his rookie season. Carr became shell-shocked and was never able to recover. He developed a habit of sensing phantom pressure. While the Jaguars offensive line isn't the Texans line circa "Murder David Carr" era, it gave up 38 sacks last season.
There's also some mechanical issues Gabbert will need to work on in regards to his footwork and working under center. Gabbert played in Gary Pinkel's "rock and fire" spread passing attack. He worked predominantly out of the shotgun and rarely took his eyes off the defense. In the NFL, he's going to need to work from under center and turn his back to the defense, especially on offense. He made a lot of quick throws at Missouri, that didn't require a lot of reads and progressions. Pinkel also taught his quarterbacks to get rid of the football, quickly. Or in Gabbert's case, pick up some yardage with his feet. At the NFL level, he's going to need to go through his progressions rather than take off running.
If Gabbert sits for a good portion of the season, it will give him valuable time to drill his footwork and take reps under center, while also allowing him to gain a rapport with some of his receivers and backs. It will also give him experience in the film room and meetings before and after games.
Plus, look at that pretty face. You don't want to mess that up.