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Byron Leftwich to David Garrard, the end is the begining...

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Goodbye my friend, till we see you again

I never expected an era to end in Jacksonville today.  While my obsession with the Jaguars borders on the obsessive, I never seriously considered the idea that we'd cast Byron aside and move on to the David Garrard era, yet here we are.  

Jack Del Rio's tenure as coach with the Jaguars is tied with Byron's.  Every decision he makes as a coach is measured by his relationship with his quarterback.  From his selection to his release, Coach Del Rio's future depends on how his decisions with Byron play out on the field.

Let's get our facts straight.

Byron Leftwich, since his anointment as starting quarterback, has looked poor.

David Garrard, against second string defenses, has looked excellent.

Byron Leftwich, in regular season games, plays hard, with heart, and through injury until relieved by his coach.

David Garrard, in regular season games, can best be described as moments of brilliance followed by overwhelming disaster (see Tennessee)

What do the facts tell me?  That we've got a new era in Jacksonville.  But this era, in my not so expert opinion, is that we're gambling.  Not like some teams do with aged veterans brought in to win now, but gambling that David can spark life into an offense that is simply sagging.  If starting David gives us that jolt that puts the missing piece into our offense, then I'm all for it.

And maybe the signs were there all along.  Perhaps it's not the fault of our first round picks in the receiving corps have fallen short of expectations, but rather that Byron just was the wrong man for the job.

Returning to Jack Del Rio for a moment, let's not forget that he's tied his future into his quaterback, whomever that may be.  If Byron goes somewhere else and excells, or if David falters, or if Brady Quinn explodes, Jack, and probably Shack Harris are gone.  Of course, without sounding like chicken little, I could speculate that the teams future could be tied in with this "all in" moment, but I really loathe poker metaphors.

All my nonsense aside, let's take a peek as to what the rest of the world is saying about this move.

Our friends over at Jaguars Journal clearly get it.  They say:

We at JagNation understand the switch, but question the timing. If they were going to move on with Garrard, the move should have been made back in February. That would've given Garrard time to adjust to playing with the number ones, and a much greater opportunity to get compensation for Leftwich.

They address an awesome point.  There is no chance in hell we get anything for Byron.  Why in the word would any team give ANYTHING up for a guy who has to be released as soon as earthly possible.  Especially with Byron's 5 million dollar contract this season.  Any team to trade for Byron would have to re-do the deal before the trade, and Byron can simply choose to take the hard road and refuse renegotiating.  That way he gets maximum value by hitting the free agent market.

Jaguars.com's Vic Ketchman explains the process behind the switch:

Let's start with the OTA's. They were not good until the last few. I distinctly remember a Tuesday practice late in OTA's that was especially horrible. The next day, Jack Del Rio volunteered interest in Daunte Culpepper. That was the first tip. OTA's ended with a couple of good practices, however, and then training camp started with some real optimism, but in the second full week of camp, David Garrard made his move. I wrote about it and I was ridiculed for my views. I tried to tell everyone that I wasn't playing talent evaluator, just reporter, but I was rebuffed as an old hack the game had passed by. All of that's correct, of course, but even an old hack could see that Garrard was on fire. Then the preseason games began and Garrard continued to pour it on. In the pregame radio show in Green Bay, I said Byron and the offense were facing a big game. I knew the situation had reached a crossroads. How big was that game? Well, it cost Byron his starting job and a big salary.

I'm suffering from retrospect here, but yeah, I'll concede that the signs were clearly there.

Pro Football Talk for whatever you think they're worth, take the angle that this is part of a battle between James Harris and Del Rio.  I'm not much on the internal power struggles within the team, mainly because all we can really do is speculate.  I'll leave the speculation to the speculums.

Me, I'm OK with what Jack said:

"Over the last five years, Byron was given every opportunity to lead this football team," Del Rio said. "We've gone through the entire offseason, training camp, preseason, and during that time, it became very apparent to me that David was the best choice for us, the best selection for us to lead this football team."

While I might take issue with the idea that Byron's had every chance to lead the team, I think Byron's had a fair chance to win the starting job.  Not to compare Mark Brunell to John Elway, but whoever followed Mark would face an uphill battle to win the hearts and minds of the city.  And while that dosen't really matter in the scheme of winning games, it's something that must have merited at least a little consideration.

That being said, there is NO way we make a play for Mark Brunell, unless he's going to retire as a Jaguar (i.e. one day contract).

Clearly, we're going to talk about this decision for a long time.  This is one of the most important days in the short history of our team.  The consequences of this decsion, for better or for worse, will be felt for years.

I hope they're right.

-Chris