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We're starting a new six part series on Big Cat Country sponsored by Sprint, bringing you the first wireless 4G network. The series is called "Sprint Game Changers" and will revolve around things the Jacksonville Jaguars have done during the off season that will have a significant impact on next season. Big Cat Country has been sponsored by Sprint in the past and we are excited to have them again.For our final installment of the Sprint Game Changer series, we're going to look at the ultimate of game changers for the 2010 season, David Garrard.
Say what you will about whether I "hate" David Garrard or not, but it's hard to deny a lot of the success of the 2010 season rests squarely on his shoulders. Yes, football is a team sport and it's very difficult for a single player to impact a game enough to where the wins and losses fall on their shoulders, but wins and losses are how quarterbacks are judged however unfair that may be. There are games where David Garrard plays very well and the team loses and there are games where he plays like total crap and the team still wins.
That's how it goes. Ultimately however, the player who touches the ball the most heaps most of the blame and most of the praise, regardless of how deserving or undeserving it is.
The upcoming season is very important for the franchise and the career of David Garrard. It's his defining season.
Will David Garrard have another average season, or will he return to his 2007 form?
This is the burning question that can take this young Jaguar football team from a 6 to 7 win season and flip it to a 10 or 11 win season.
By all accounts David Garrard has rededicated himself this off-season after another disappointing year that once again ended with the team failing down the stretch, ending the season 0-4. David Garrard wasn't the sole reason for the 0-4 collapse to end the season, but he wasn't helping all that much. In the final four games, David Garrard completed just 57.7% (75/130) of his passes for 749 (187.3ypg) yards with 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Oddly enough, in the final months (Dec/Jan) of the season since taking over as the full-time starter in 2006, Garrard is only 7-13. He is a notoriously quick starter, but not a finisher.
Many will scream the offensive line got him killed in 2008 and 2009, and that explains his average performances. This is true, to a degree. In 2008 the offensive line was in shambles suffering multiple season long injuries coupled with the uninspired play of former left tackle Khalif Barnes. One issue I have just glossing over everything in 2008 on the offensive line is the fact that as the season went on, no adjustments seemed to be made. You would think that as the quarterback played with the same, yet porous, offensive line he could learn to adjust and do things to minimize the hits and/or sacks, but it didn't happen. As the season went on, the offense got worse and worse. Again, it wasn't all Garrard's fault. It wasn't all the offensive line's fault. It was a lot of the receiver's fault, but these were the same wide receivers the team had in 2007 for the most part. David Garrard didn't play all that well, but in 2008 I was willing to give him a pseudo-pass because of those issues.
Fast forward to 2009, when the team started two rookies at the tackle positions and the pressure and hits on the quarterback continued. While quite a bit of that can be attributed to the fact that rookies were starting on the line, but again some of it also fell on David Garrard, who has a bad habit of holding the football and scrambling when it's not necessary. Even one of his own offensive lineman commented that after watching film at the end of the season, roughly 15-18 of the sacks were due to the quarterback holding the ball, scrambling, or running out of bounds. When a quarterback rolls out of the pocket or scrambles and is still tackled for a loss or runs out of bounds for a loss, it's still a sack. For his career, Garrard has always been hit and sacked more often than he should, it's just how he plays. Some of it's on the line, in the past some of it was on his receivers, and some of it's on David Garrard's "game".
Part of the bigger issue is, it seems like an adjustment is never made. This was brought to light a bit this past off-season when Garrard commented to the Florida Times-Union that at times he did not know what the defense was going to do pre-snap, and would need to read the defense after the ball. That's telling, and part of the reason he was publicly criticized by owner Wayne Weaver after the season for his off-the-field preparation. If you can't pick up what the defense is going to do pre-snap, it makes it very difficult to adjust your protection and make hot reads.
Garrard was very adamant this off-season that he's watching more film than he ever has, which is fantastic. Garrard has all of the physical traits you could want in a quarterback. He's got good size, he's tough as nails, he's very athletic, has a quick release, and has a very strong arm. It's hard to look at the physical ability of David Garrard and find something you don't like. Hell, if you look at just the physical attributes of David Garrard and someone like Donovan McNabb, they're nearly identical.
So, what's the difference?
The mental aspect of Garrard's game has always been his shortcoming. I don't want this to be construed as me calling him stupid, because I don't believe he is. I've talked to him and I've watched him work the media in press conferences. He's no dummy. He does however, have brain farts on the field more often than a player entering his 9th NFL season should. I'm sure most will agree, this has always been the issue. The brain farts, or as most would call it; consistency. For as many times Garrard will wow you with his physical ability, he'll just as many times send you cursing with a "What in the...".
Just look at a snapshot of the 2009 season. In New York in the closing minutes of the game, Garrard was able to find Marcedes Lewis down the field for 33 yards right before the two-minute warning to setup a game sealing field goal by Josh Scobee. Fast forward a few weeks later when Garrard is having one of the best games of the season at home against the Indianapolis Colts. In the waining moments of the game when the team is driving down the field, Garrard suddenly thinks he's throwing alley-oops to Dwight Howard as he overshoots Mike Thomas and Mike Sims-Walker, and is then intercepted on an ill-advised pass.
In a nutshell, that's what David Garrard has been for most of his career.
Up and down.
The team has high hopes this season, and it's offense is poised to be explosive ripe with young players chomping at the bit. The question is, which David Garrard are we going to get? Do we get the efficient David Garrard of 2007 who ran a well-oiled offensive machine, or do we get the David Garrard who leads the league in red zone inefficiency?
We all should hope for and expect the former. It's really Garrard's last chance, at least with the Jacksonville Jaguars. His salary won't allow him to stay as a back-up if he underperforms again when the Jaguars draft a quarterback of the future next season, and I'm not sure his pride will, either.