After an 0-3 start to the 2003 regular season in Jack Del Rio's first season as head coach of the Jaguars, Byron Leftwich started for the Jaguars in their week four matchup against the Texans in favor of the injured Mark Brunell. While the circumstances regarding Blaine Gabbert replacing Luke McCown are different than that of Leftwich replacing Brunell, the situation for Gabbert is not that much different than it was Leftwich.
The 2003 Jaguars finished as the league's fifteenth ranked passing offense, eighth ranked rushing offense, eighteenth ranked passing defense and the second ranked rushing defense. Ultimately, they were a team that ran the ball well and stopped the run well.
While the Jaguars obviously hope for a higher level of performance from Gabbert over the long-term than they received from Leftwich, Leftwich's performance in his starting debut provides a good bar for expectations from Gabbert.
Leftwich's first drive of the game resulted in a 29 yard Seth Marler field goal after he completed a 22 yard pass to Jimmy Redmond on 4th and 10 to extend the drive. However, Leftwich had his struggles throughout the game, throwing three interceptions.
In the third quarter, Leftwich threw a franchise-record 84 yard touchdown pass to Troy Edwards to tie the game at 17 and keep the Jaguars in the game. A 20 yard Marler field goal six minutes later gave the Jaguars their first lead of the game.
Leftwich appeared as though he'd pick up the win for the Jaguars, but made a crucial mistake, fumbling the ball away with less than three minutes remaining in the game. David Carr and the Texans drove the field and elected to go for the win instead of the tie as time expired. Carr rushed the final yard himself, extending the ball over the goal line for the game winning score.
Leftwich finished 17 of 36 for 231 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. He finished the season with a 57.2% completion percentage, 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
While there is certainly hope that Gabbert could be more than that for the Jaguars, especially with the early successes of Cam Newton and Andy Dalton, it's probably unfair of Jaguars fans to expect as much. Instead a statline like Leftwich's in his rookie debut and season is probably a better bar with which to grade.