Tie goes to the incumbent or the rookie?

JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 19: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Jacksonville Jaguars attempts a pass during a game against the Atlanta Falcons at EverBank Field on August 19, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Saying that there is a battle between Blaine Gabbert and David Garrard for the starting quarterback job in Jacksonville is not an indication of having an agenda. If that's the case then CBS's Pete Prisco, SI's Peter King and the Times-Union's Tania Ganguli and Gene Frenette have an agenda as well. It's a simple reality that there is a battle for the Jaguars quarterback job and that neither player has done enough to lock up the spot at this point.

The difference in level of play between Garrard and Gabbert has been minimal at this point and it is likely that the third preseason game will be paramount in the Jaguars organization's decision between the two. But what if they continue to play at a similar level? What if at the end of preseason, the team deems the Jaguars chances to win exactly equal with Garrard as it is with Gabbert? Who gets the job in that scenario?

There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to choosing either quarterback. By choosing Garrard, the Jaguars would be allowing Gabbert more time to adjust to the speed and complications of the NFL without throwing him to the flames. They would also be choosing a veteran quarterback with 76 career starts in the Jacksonville offense and a player that led the Jaguars to playoff contention in three of the last four seasons.

But the Jaguars would also be entrusting their 2011 season in a player that was at the helm during a four game skid that cost the team a shot at the playoffs in 2009 and a three game skid that cost them the playoffs in 2010. Whether or not Garrard was predominantly at fault or even at fault at all is debatable, but the fact is that Garrard is a 33 year old quarterback with nothing to offer other than what he has already shown.

Assuming the two are at an equal point, Gabbert gives the hope and potential for growth and progress. Gene Smith's hope is that he will become the face of the franchise and an elite quarterback for years to come.

Consider this quote from ESPN's Paul Kuharsky:

David Garrard's deep interception to Brent Grimes was well over Mike Thomas up the middle. It was an overly hopeful throw that killed a possession and wasn’t necessary. He also missed Marcedes Lewis on a much shorter touchdown pass opportunity, though his ankle was clipped by a rusher as he let it go. Those are the sort of plays that make some people say, "Why not just play the rookie?"

Why not just play the rookie? Again assuming that the coaches and Gene Smith deem their play as equal, there's really only one reason to justify sitting Gabbert. To prevent stunting his growth by throwing him into the fire too early.

That leads to the classic football debate about starting or grooming rookies. Would Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers play at the level they currently do had they not sat behind Brett Favre and Drew Brees, respectively? Or do Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger help disprove the idea and show that a good quarterback will succeed regardless?

Everyone seems to have an opinion, but there's no way to definitively prove either side of the debate. Ultimately, it comes down to personal philosophy and opinion. Mine is that, given a tie between the two quarterbacks, the Jaguars should start Blaine Gabbert and begin the future now rather than later.

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