We continue our list of the Top-25 Jaguars of all-time. The ranking of Donovin Darius at #23 certainly cause some interesting debate, as I figured it likely would. There was an overwhelming majority on where you folks stood in terms of the position of Darius' ranking, as out of 225 votes at last count, 72% of you felt #23 was too low. While I disagree wholeheartedly with that vote, I appreciate you guys and gals taking the time out to voice your opinion.
The player coming in at #22 may bring out the best or worse of this ongoing debate, I leave it to you to determine that outcome.
#22. David Garrard, QB, 2002-2010
Let me start off by saying a few thoughts, with full disclosure. I have never been the most ardent supporter of Garrard's since he took over the starting quarterback role full time in 2007. I felt he was on his best day an above average NFL quarterback, and on his worst he was downright awful. When compiling this list, I wrestled with Garrard's placement several times before taking a step back and attempting to grasp his place in Jaguars history. Having done that, it occurred to me that he does belong on this list and this spot seemed fair and appropriate.
Garrard began as a backup with the Jaguars after being drafted by the team in 2002, with the Coughlin regime's thought that he'd be the eventual successor to Mark Brunell. When Coughlin was fired following the '02 season, Garrard remained relegated to what appeared to be a permanent back up position after new general manager James Harris drafted Byron Leftwich in the first round of the 2003 draft. Garrard was relegated to third string for the '03 season, before becoming the full-time backup after the team traded Brunell in the '04 off-season. During that same time, Garrard dealt with a serious health issue, having to overcome battling Crohn's Disease. Despite that, he managed to play that year and began to become a popular player with the fans as he somewhat consistently displayed Brunell-like mobility along with solid arm strength during his pre-season appearances. His mobility being a stark contrast to the "drop back" style of the starting Leftwich.
He made his first career start as a Jaguar in the '04 season, subbing in for an injured Leftwich, winning an overtime game against the Detroit Lions while throwing for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns including the game winner in OT. The following week, however, Garrard played poorly in his second start versus the Tennessee Titans, throwing for a pedestrian 129 yards and an interception in an 18-15 loss. This type of game to game inconsistency would become a calling card of sorts for most of his Jaguar career.
Garrard's first push at the starting job came in 2005, when once again subbing for the injured Leftwich following an ankle injury in Week 12, he led the team to a 4-1 record that helped the team achieve a Wild Card berth in the playoffs. He went 86/142 for 60.5% completion percentage, throwing for 1,002 yards and 4 touchdowns with 1 interception in those five starts. Despite Garrard playing with consistent efficiency and leading the team to three consecutive victories to finish the regular season with a playoff berth, head coach Jack Del Rio made the decision to start a still hobbled Leftwich in the team's playoff game against the New England Patriots. The team would end up losing the game, with both quarterbacks eventually playing with little success. The decision to start Leftwich, and ultimately the loss that followed, ignited what would be a near civil war amongst the fan base over which quarterback should be the team's starter, that would last for well over a year. Though Leftwich himself had played well in the regular season before suffering his injury.
Despite Garrard's performance, and Leftwich's failure to produce much in the team's post-season appearance the year before, Del Rio named Leftwich the starter for the 2006 season. However, after yet another injury to Leftwich early in the season, Garrard once again took over starting the team's remaining 10 games. Garrard led the team to a 5-5 record, going 145/241 for a 60.2 completion percentage and throwing for 1,735 yards with 10 touchdowns to 9 interceptions. During this span, Garrard started off rather well, going 5-2 in his first seven games. In his last three games, however, he suffered from turnovers giving the ball away six times while only throwing three touchdowns. The lackluster performance cost the team an opportunity to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season, as well as costing Garrard what looked to be the full-time starting job going forward.
Del Rio would name Leftwich the starter in the 2007 off-season, and it appeared Garrard's opportunity to become the team's full-time QB had passed. In the '07 pre-season, however, Garrard somewhat out of nowhere greatly outplayed Leftwich and resulted in Del Rio and Harris shockingly releasing Leftwich a week before the start of the '07 regular season, naming Garrard the full-time starter for opening day. The move would bare fruit, as Garrard had the season of his life.
He led the team to a 12-4 record, the second time he'd help done so, and a second playoff appearance in three seasons. Despite missing three consecutive games to an injury, Garrard had a nearly flawless statistical season going 208/325 for a 64% completion percentage and throwing 18 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions, tying a record for least interceptions thrown by a starting quarterback with at least 10 starts in a season. His QB rating, though a rather flawed statistic, was a team record 102.2, second in the NFL that year.
His post-season performance following the '07 season would become the hallmark of his overall play during his Jaguar career. In a Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Garrard was rather inept for most of the game. He went a backup-like 9/21 for a 42.9% comp. percentage and threw for only 140 yards with only 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Down by a point with less than two minutes to go in the game, however, Garrard shined. He led the offense down field and culminated the drive with a 32 yard run on 4th & 2, that set up the game winning field goal. Ironically, Garrard would play perhaps his best game as a pro the next week in a loss to New England. He went 22/33 for 66.7% with 278 yards and 2 touchdowns to 1 interception, against a Patriots team that was at that point undefeated and thought to be perhaps the greatest team of all-time. Quite simply, Garrard played out of his mind in the game, and though the team lost it appeared they were heading for a "window of opportunity" with him at the helm.
That perception would not become reality however. Over the next three seasons Garrard would lead the team to records of 5-11, 7-9, and 8-8 respectively. He never played with the same consistency he showed in the '07 season, or with the same efficiency as he displayed in the post-season game versus the Patriots. He did post some statistically above average seasons from '08-'10. Despite never having much in the way of great talent at the wide receiver position, Garrard threw for back to back 3,500+ yard seasons in '08 and '09 and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate following the '09 season, the first Jaguars quarterback to be named to the team since Mark Brunell in 1999. In 2010, his final season as a Jaguar, he set a franchise record for touchdown passes in a season with 23, surpassing Brunell's previous mark of 20 and nearly led the team to it's first AFC South division title, falling short in the final three games of the season. For all his inconsistencies, Garrard never finished a season with a completion percentage below 60%, and never had a season in which he threw more interceptions than touchdowns.
In a somewhat Hollywood made storyline, Garrard himself was released by the team a week before the 2011 season after performing poorly in his pre-season appearances while struggling with what was diagnosed as a signifigant back injury. He signed with the Miami Dolphins in the 2012 off-season, and will compete for their starting quarterback spot after missing the '11 season.
Jaguars fans will likely forever be divided as to how they feel about his time as the team's starting quarterback. While he didn't lead the team to the successes that Brunell had, he is the second best quarterback in this franchise's history and was, though not fully responsible, a major contributor to this team's "second era's" return to the post-season after not being a playoff factor for half a decade. Couple that with his albeit surprising statistical ranking in team history, and Garrard is deserving of this spot in the Top 25.
The Top 25 List:
#25- Aaron Beasley, CB, 1996-2001
#24- Bryan Barker, P, 1995-2000
#23- Donovin Darius, S, 1998-2006
#22- David Garrard, QB, 2002-2010