There's a phrase that is sometimes tossed around when rookies quarterbacks are put in as starters: "Set up for failure." It's used when a player is put in a situation where their chances at success are minimal and the most likely scenario for them is to fail as a quarterback. If Blaine Gabbert is not a player that was set up for failure in 2011, then I don't know who is.
His lack of success in the Jacksonville offense has led to a backlash of a large percentage of Jaguars fans doubting his ability as an NFL quarterback, which has only been compounded by the successes of rookies Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder. While Gabbert certainly hasn't been a good quarterback so far, and believe me when I say no one is saying he has been, he certainly has a laundry list of reasons why his struggles are justified.The most obvious reason of them all are the wide receivers. In Carolina's game against the Vikings yesterday with 1:29 remaining in the first quarter, Cam Newton found Steve Smith on a slant across the middle of the field. The throw was way behind Smith, but he was able to turn all the way around, catch the ball and finish his 360 and turn upfield for what turned into a 19 yard gain.
Blaine Gabbert struggled with accuracy on Sunday against the Texans as many of his 20 incompletions were behind the receivers they were intended to. Of those 20 incompletions, how many would have been caught if the receivers had the separation that Smith consistently finds and were able to turn their bodies around to make the catch?
Of course I'm not saying that a quarterback should be making their receivers turn completely around to make the catch, but Gabbert's accuracy is not so terrible that these balls are uncatchable. In fact, the vast majority of them are; however, the placement on them has to be extremely precise because his passes must get by defenders that are consistently in position to make a play on the ball.
Gabbert has also been the victim of poor pass blocking, mostly from rookie guard Will Rackley and tackle Guy Whimper. He did a decent job at escaping pressure in the game against Houston, but Gabbert has had a tendency of running himself into pressure or just running away for no reason at times.
The only time he was sacked against the Texans was after Whimper was beat pretty badly. Through the first seven weeks, Football Outsiders ranked the Jaguars offensive line as the 31st best pass blocking line. Sounds awfully comforting to a quarterback who has to wait forever for a receiver to get open and in many cases they don't at all.
Ultimately, Gabbert is playing poorly. I'm not arguing as much, but how much can we fault a rookie with six career games under his belt in the situation he's been forced into.
Mark Long of the Associate Press said it best when he responded to a tweet from Alfie saying Gabbert was an odd choice for "a team with a non-QB coach QB coach and coords all on 1-year deals." Long said, "Not really an odd pick if he sits all year like he was supposed to. DG messed it up by sucking in preseason."
So, yes, Gabbert will be receiving a pass from me as well this season for his struggles. That is, as long as those struggles don't begin to evolve into things much worse than they currently are.
And to those that say Garrard did more with the same receivers, you are right. But the reason Garrard is no longer a member of the Jaguars was his propensity for making the bone-headed play, not his inability to make accurate passes in the shallow and intermediate passing game.