Realistically, the only surprise in the move that the Jacksonville Jaguars made to release former starting quarterback David Garrard was the timing of it. I was half waiting for a press conference to be announced on Saturday afternoon, but didn't think the team had to cuts to pull the plug again, like they did prior to the 2007. Something happened between Saturday and yesterday afternoon however, that made head coach Jack Del Rio and general manager Gene Smith say enough is enough.
"He just wasn't able to get it going this preseason," Jack Del Rio told the media in his press conference yesterday. "He even admitted that when we talked today. For whatever reason he has just not been able to find a rhythm, not been able to be his old self. And so with that being the case, we decided to let him go," added Del Rio.
At some point in the last two seasons, Jack Del Rio and the Jaguars front office lost faith in David Garrard. Mark Long of the Associate Press was on with 1010XL last night discussing the move, and he felt like Jack Del Rio was done with David Garrard after the overtime loss to the Washington Redskins, where Garrard had an abysmal game that was capped off by throwing a bad interception on his own side of the field in overtime. Prior to that, Long speculated that if Luke McCown had not been injured in relief duty against the San Diego Chargers early in 2010, he probably would have started going forward after that game. I'm inclined to agree with Long, and said as much most of last season and this offseason.
Gerald Alexander, a member of the Jaguars from 2008 to part of 2010 tweeted yesterday that quite a few players felt like Luke McCown would have won the starting job last season, had their been a legitimate competition for the position. I've had a handful of other players tell me as much in private, as well. Simply put: The team as a whole, lost faith in David Garrard as their starting quarterback. That became obvious when Garrard was not selected as a team captain and in some post-release quotes from players. "I don't think there was any confidence to be lost," one player told Mark Long when asked about Garrard's release yesterday. In Jay Glazer's report, he noted that players were not shocked by the move and felt like it was inevitable.
It also didn't help Garrard in the locker room that he seemed to point fingers at an increasing rate. "It's not always my fault, but that's how it reads in the paper," Garrard said during training camp. An easy way to lose a locker room is to play poorly and blame everyone else.
During training camp and the preseason this year, David Garrard was once again outplayed by Luke McCown, even though McCown had limited snaps. Something was off with Garrard from the get-go, however. If you remember early in training camp, I said I felt like Garrard was pressing and making more mistakes than he typically did trying to make plays happen. It was obvious he felt the pressure for his job and at some point, it felt like he was resigned to the fact that losing his job was inevitable.
"Healthy competition is OK," Garrard told USA Today a few weeks ago. "If I do my job well, I don't have to worry about anything else. If I do that, and they still want me to move on? There are still 31 other teams out there."
The pressure to keep his job clearly got to David Garrard. You could tell in the games he pressed, he tried to make things happen, and he tried to hit on throws he simply can't make.
"What it really came down to is, I gave David Garrard every opportunity to show us what we had seen before," Del Rio said yesterday. "What made him the starter in the first place, and he just couldn't get it going."
"It was an evaluation thing," general manager Gene Smith said at the press conference. Even after final cuts on Saturday, the team was still evaluating it's roster. The team evaluates a lot of tape leading up to final cuts, so it's possible in the evaluation process, it just hammered home how poor David Garrard was in the preseason. Not only in the preseason, but in practice Garrard just couldn't get it going. Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union tweeted yesterday, that in Monday's practice Garrard had been intercepted three times. It's possible after that practice and during the evaluation process, everything just came to a head.
In the end, the team just didn't feel like David Garrard gave them the best chance to win. The only surprise was the timing of the release, not the release itself. Ideally, if there had not been a lockout and the team had had proper time to evaluate McCown's repaired knee and get Blaine Gabbert into mini-camp and OTA's, the move very likely would have happened before training camp had even began.