It's been well documented the perception nationally about Jacksonville Jaguars second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert is that he lacks toughness in the pocket, unwilling to stand in there and take a shot if needed to complete a pass. This narrative is based on a rookie season where Gabbert was in quite literally the worst possible situation for a rookie quarterback to be.
Despite all that, no one can disagree that he wasn't flat out bad in his rookie season, because he was. One area where people around the team differ with the people not around the team however, is the question of Gabbert's toughness. Gabbert was a bit skittish in the pocket at times his rookie year, but what was lazily attributed to be fear and lack of toughness was actually confusion and indecisiveness rather than playing scared.
"He's a young guy, and he walked into a nightmare situation," linebacker Paul Posluszny told Michael Silver of Yahoo! of Gabbert in 2011. "He had all the negative things that anybody could have happen to him. I said, 'Man, I feel bad for Blaine, because he's a good kid and he's doing everything the right way, but we're not winning on the field. And, of course, he gets the blame for it.' "
Gabbert knew this was the situation coming in as a quarterback, however.
"I think that's part of our job description: Deal with the crap," Gabbert told Yahoo!'s Michael Silver. Dealing with the crap has actually been one thing Gabbert has done very well with. He takes more than his share of the blame and it doesn't seem to bother him. He's shown no real signs of the media scrutiny bothering him, outside of getting a bit salty at times, which Jaguars fans seem to love.
Gabbert got even more salty in his interview with Michael Silver prior to Friday night's preseason game against the Saints, kind of calling out some of the analysts who've openly questioned his toughness.
"But for people to say [I'm scared], I just don't understand it. They've never played in the NFL. They really don't know what goes on, or what happens. So that argument, I think, is just a copout for people to make because they're - I don't want to necessarily want to say jealous - but, they couldn't do my job. And that's the truth. They can't do my job. There are 31 other guys that can do my job, and that's it. And that's kind of the way that the quarterbacks look at it. Selfishly, I think it's the best job in the world, but that [requires] putting in an honest day's work on a daily basis to keep it."
There wasn't a better way to follow up his own comments than to go 13-of-16 for 112 yards and two touchdown passes in Friday night's matchup. Gabbert looked calm, comfortable, and was throwing strikes all night long. His few misses were just overthrowing Laurent Robinson deep down the field and rifling in a shot to Mike Thomas who was only able to get one hand on the ball.
The biggest thing however, to follow up Gabbert's comments in regards to being scared, was the fact that he took multiple shots in the pocket on the drives he was in the game. In the first half of the game, Gabbert stood in the pocket and delivered a pass while taking shot as many as four or five times without flinching and keeping his eyes down the field.
A quarterback who lacks toughness or is scared wouldn't have taken the shots Gabbert took on Friday, or even the few he took in the first preseason game. While some experts questioned if Gabbert could win over his teammates because he was "scared," his teammates don't seem to think he is.
"I mean, I don't think he's scared," Posluszny told Silver. "The guy took a lot of hits last year, and there were a lot of grown men chasing him. It's not an easy thing to do."
Silver even included an anonymous quote from a former player on the 2011 Jaguars on Gabbert:
Said one player who was with the Jags in 2011: "I'll bet he was scared, 'cause there were dudes all over him when he tried to throw, and he was getting pounded. Most people would have been scared. It wasn't the greatest situation."
Fast forward to today, with a new coaching staff who actually care, a new owner, and new weapons on offense... the Jaguars looked like something that hasn't really been seen from the team in over a decade. An offense hummed right down the football field with seeming ease.
Friday night's performance should start to make a lot of the "Gabbert is scared," crowd re-think their lazy analysis, especially if it continues as most expect against the Baltimore Ravens next week.
While, it's just Week 2 of the preseason and excitement should be tempered, it's hard not to get excited about what the team is showing on the football field. Especially for a team that some predicted would have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.