We all read the article that Pete Prisco wrote for CBS Sports detailing why he thought that Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert wasn't going to be a bust. It was a rational take on Gabbert's future, noting the perfect storm of terrible that the Jaguars had on offense last season, but it also measured the areas Gabbert really needs work on, which includes his pocket presence. Prisco even asked Gabbert about NFL Network Michael Lombardi's comments about him, stating that "In my 20-plus years in the NFL, I don't think I have seen a high first-round pick look as scared or as out of place as Blaine Gabbert."
Gabbert responded in tune, brushing aside the criticism as he should. Here's what he told Prisco:
"Who is Mike Lombardi?" Gabbert said. "Every season a player is going to have a certain label. It creates buzz. It creates controversy and interest. Whatever the label is for the year, it's going to stick with you. He doesn't know what's going on. He doesn't know anything about me. It's comical. It's funny."
There was nothing wrong with this response from Gabbert and is pretty cliche when it comes to players responding to media members who criticize them heavily. Quipping "Who is ...." is pretty common place. But, just when you thought this whole drama had run it's course, Michael Lombardi had to go and write on of the most arrogant and whiney things I've ever read in response to a player's comments.
Lombardi constructs his "Open letter to Blaine Gabbert" in the tone that Gabbert was complaining and whining about what Lombardi said about him, when in reality he brushed it aside and said, "I have to respond on the football field." Right out of the gate, you can tell Gabbert's quip about who he was bothered Lombardi, because it's the first thing he notes.
I realize you have no idea who I am, or care to know, but my critical comments last December were not directed at you as a person, but rather, your performance as a rookie player in the NFL. This isn't personal -- strictly a player evaluation based on your 14 starts as a rookie.
And here is where Michael Lombardi completely misses the boat.
Gabbert didn't take the comments personal, but the funny part is it seems Michael Lombardi took Gabbert's response personal while penning this whiney diatribe. Lombardi even goes so far as to begin to lecture about how you have to have thick skin in the NFL, while writing this up.
The NFL is a tough business -- it requires a short memory, thick skin to criticism and constant growth. Each time you take the field, you must show some level of improvement in every aspect of your game. That did not happen last year. Never did I watch your tape and feel like you were developing as a quarterback, making strides toward improved play. Rarely did I see a glimpse of the talent you displayed at Missouri.
Not only is this massively hypocritical, but it just shows Lombardi might not have done all of his homework on Gabbert when he watched the talent he displayed at Missouri. If you go back and watch Gabbert play at Missouri, his pocket presence and tendency to feel ghost pressure exists. This wasn't something new to Gabbert making the jump to the NFL, but Lombardi didn't feel it was a big enough problem then when he graded him out as the No. 1 quarterback in the 2011 draft class.
Here's some video of Gabbert in college. Any of this look familiar?
Lombardi continues on stating that young players must understand the difference between "coaching and criticism," stating that critics just state what's wrong without caring for the future and claiming he cares about Gabbert being a good player.
Let's look at Lombardi's "coaching" of Gabbert from back in December:
In my 20-plus years in the NFL, I don't think I have seen a high first-round pick look as scared or as out of place as Blaine Gabbert. The game looks entirely too big for him. When the ball is in his hand, he treats it like a hot potato. His play was embarrassing, considering he was a top-10 pick. I believed Gabbert was a good prospect and wrote about it leading up to the draft. When everyone was concerned about his down-field throws, I thought he would be able to adjust. But never did I think his eye level would be this low, his unwillingness to hang in the pocket this bad. I readily admit my mistake. Now the Jaguars need to do the same. How can they expect players around him to buy in? Gabbert cannot fool his teammates. If he continues to play like this, no one will want to play with him.
Lombardi defines coaching as "strive for excellence because they have a vested interest in their players." Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't see a single thing in Lombardi's comments that Gabbert responded to that is any form or fashion close to what Lombardi describes as coaching or showing care for Gabbert's future in the league.
Then, in another fit of completely unnecessary arrogance after Lombardi looks at quarterbacks rookie seasons in the modern era, he drops this gem on Gabbert:
In your 14 starts, you went 4-10 while completing 50 percent of your passes, averaging 154.4 passing yards per game, throwing 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and posting a 64.8 passer rating. Look over the numbers in both groups and then you decide which group you belong in.
Hold on, what?
Did I miss where Gabbert talked anything about what group he deserved to be anything? Did I miss where Gabbert said anything about him playing poorly in 2011? I'm pretty sure I saw Gabbert just respond to the criticism that he's scared and no one wants to play with him. But again, maybe I'm crazy.
And to top it all off, Lombardi leaves us with the faux line about his diatribe not being self serving:
Please take this letter in the spirit it was intended: to help you improve your overall game and have a great career. This letter is not about me proving my point -- it's about you proving your talents.
Now, should we talk about thick skin again? Who is Michael Lombardi?