We all love bold statements from athletes. Joe Namath guaranteed a win before Super Bowl III. Terrell Owens told us to "Get your popcorn ready" when he signed with the Dallas Cowboys before the 2006 season. As fans we love these statements and love it when athletes answer questions with bravado.
As the Jaguars season approaches all eyes are on Blaine Gabbert. It is generally accepted that any chance the Jaguars have at improvement in 2012 is reliant on Gabbert’s development. Reports from the offseason indicate that Gabbert has shown improvement in fundamentals, maturity, and command in the huddle.
I imagine that at some point before the season opener someone will ask Gabbert what his goals for the season are. Anyone expecting him to answer with some real numbers and statistics are sure to be disappointed. Players rarely want to disclose such information lest they get criticized for making goals that are too high or too low. Also, if preseason goals go unrealized, those goal statements could be pointed to as evidence of failure.
With this in mind, I’ve decided to take the burden off of our young quarterback’s shoulders and put it on mine. I understand that statistics do not tell the whole story of a quarterback’s season. There have been highly rated quarterbacks that didn’t win many games. There have been QBs that excelled through most of the game only to crumble in the fourth quarter. There have been QBs that passed for many yards but didn’t make the playoffs. There have been quarterbacks that did it all in the regular season only to wilt in the playoffs.
However, with the Jaguars having evidence of a good running game and a good defense, it seems plausible that even modest improvement in the passing game could reap real benefits in the form of Jaguars wins. With that in mind, I will focus on three statistical areas that I want to see Gabbert improve, and I will give him an attainable goal in each area.
I decided to look to two quarterback seasons as benchmarks for Gabbert: Former Jaguars QB Mark Brunell in 1999 and San Francisco QB Alex Smith in 2011. I picked Brunell because he was very effective that year with modest numbers. He was voted to the Pro-Bowl and won 14 games in the regular season and an appearance in the AFC Championship game. He had an excellent run game and a great defense supporting him. Alex Smith had similar support from the 49ers team last year as he led his team to the NFC Championship game. Neither QB performance was outstanding statistically, but both were enough to win. That’s what I’ll be looking for this year with Gabbert.
Gabbert was 26th in the NFL in passing yards last year with 2214. Fifty-two of those yards came in the New York Jets game in relief of Luke McCown. So in 14 starts he had 2162 yards for a 154 yard-per –game average. How does that compare?
Blaine Gabbert, 2011 = 154 yards/game
Mark Brunell, 1999 = 204 yards/game
Alex Smith, 2011 = 197 yards/game
So what does this mean to me? I’m making Gabbert’s goal 200 yards per game. That seems low, but it would be 46 more yards a game than last year and just might translate into more wins.
How many more completed passes would that take? Let’s take a look.
Usually completion percentage is a more accurate picture of a quarterback’s effectiveness than the actual number of completions. If a quarterback can be accurate and efficient, the offense is hard to stop.
Gabbert had trouble in this area last year posting a 50.8% completion percentage which ranked 33rd in the league. Let’s again compare the three quarterbacks:
Blaine Gabbert, 2011 = 50.8%
Mark Brunell, 1999 = 58.7%
Alex Smith, 2011 = 61.3%
I’m making Gabbert’s goal a 60% completion percentage. So how many more completions per game is this? Last year Gabbert had 210 completions in 413 attempts. He would need 248 completions with the same number of attempts, which is only about two or three more completions per game. With an improved wide receiver corps and a better offensive design suited to Gabbert’s strengths, I say it is a reachable goal, but will it translate to wins? Only if some of those extra completions are into the end zone.
Gabbert had 12 touchdown passes last year which ranked him 27th in the league last year.
Blaine Gabbert, 2011 = 12
Mark Brunell, 1999 = 14
Alex Smith, 2011 = 17
Either of the above totals would be an improvement for Gabbert, but I’m making his goal 18 touchdown passes. David Garrard led the 2007 Jaguars into the playoffs with 18 touchdowns, a good running game and a good defense.
My 2012 Goals for Gabbert: 3200 yards (200 yards/game); 60% completion percentage; 18 TDs
None of these goals are eye-popping. None of these goals are going to make people think that Gabbert is an elite quarterback. But if he realizes these numbers he’ll change some people’s minds about his future and the future of the Jacksonville Jaguars…I guarantee it.
Get your popcorn ready!