Blaine Gabbert is going to compete for the Jacksonville Jaguars 2013 starting quarterback job. We don't know who he will be competing with just yet, but we know he will have a chance at the job. He's earned a chance, but that's all he's earned.
Gabbert hasn't earned the right to be considered a frontrunner in the competition, and he hasn't played well enough for the Jaguars to pass on a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick. Based on his first two years in league, Gabbert hasn't earned much of anything except for a spot on the roster and a shot at the job.
But how much of a chance does Gabbert have of being the team's starting quarterback in 2013? Well, as of this moment, he is the best quarterback on the roster. Before injuring his shoulder and forearm, Gabbert was actually showing signs of life. He had his first 300-yard passing game of his career against the Green Bay Packers and threw for two touchdowns against the Lions before reverting back to old form against the Colts the next week. Following the Colts loss, Gabbert was knocked out for the season against the Texans.
Gabbert's performance was hardly spectacular. It was competent at best. And it didn't do much to assure the Jaguars that they had found their franchise quarterback. But it was better than what he had shown, and Gabbert is still just 23 years old, so a glimmer of hope remains.
But while Gabbert would seem to have the edge on Chad Henne, who was his usual erratic self late in the 2012 season and has hardly been mentioned by the new coaching staff, the team is not done adding pieces to the quarterback picture for the 2013 season.
Owners of the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Jaguars should be in position to select West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, considered by most to be the top ranked signal caller in this class. While the Jaguars sent a large contingent to Smith's pro day at West Virginia, whether or not they are willing to invest in him with the second pick remains to be seen.
Even if the Jaguars take Smith at No. 2, though, there is no guarantee that he will be taking snaps as the team's starting quarterback in 2013. Gus Bradley comes from the Pete Carroll mold and stresses competition. Last year, the Seahawks threw a ton of money at Matt Flynn in free agency only to have a third round pick starting at quarterback Week 1, so nothing is out of the question.
That being said, Smith may be the only quarterback available that could beat out Gabbert for the starting spot. It's not a secret that the 2013 NFL Draft isn't a particularly strong one for the quarterback position. The best prospects will need time to develop, Smith included. Day two options like Tyler Wilson, Tyler Bray and Zac Dysert are also longterm projects at quarterback and may not have what it takes to beat out Gabbert right away. Keep in mind, despite Gabbert's shortcomings, he has all of the tools and has been improving, albeit at a slower rate than most hoped for.
Smith, however, would have a real shot to beat out Gabbert. For starters, if the new regime spent that high of a pick on the West Virginia quarterback, Dave Caldwell and company would have to see something in him. Who's quarterback are you going to trust, Caldwell's or Gene Smith's?
For all of Smith's positive attributes, Gabbert has the more prototypical arm strength and size, plus he has a month head start on Smith to make an impression on the coaching staff. Smith's natural feel for the pocket, deep accuracy and ability to keep his eyes downfield and extend plays with his feet are all areas that Gabbert has been severely lacking in, though.
If the Jaguars pull the trigger on Smith, they will be getting a quarterback that brings something to the table that they haven't yet seen in Gabbert. While other rookie quarterbacks in this class present promise and are worth investing a day two pick in, Smith is probably the only one that has a real shot at unseating Gabbert for the starting position in 2013.
Gabbert will have a new face to compete with this offseason, but if he wins the job, Jaguars fans can still be encouraged about the quarterback position in 2013. If he wins the job at this point, we'll know he has earned it, as the new regime doesn't owe him a thing. Who knows, maybe the added competition will finally bring out the best in the kid.