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The Other Side of the QB Battle: Why they probably don't keep Garrard*

Brian wrote a nice article about why the Jacksonville Jaguars should keep David Garrard. I can't disagree with a lot of what he said, but I still believe it's unlikely he's the starter in 2011. There are of course situations that will necessitate him being the starter, but there is also a situation where him not being on the roster economically makes sense.

Again, this is me connecting the dots on why I don't think he'll be on the roster. I also included an asterisk in the title, because if there's no training camp/pre-season... the logic I'm using is completely worthless and even I wouldn't advocate Gabbert being thrown in.

First and foremost, I think it says a lot that the Jaguars made sure to get Blaine Gabbert a playbook and go over it a bit with him during the 1-day limbo period when the stay was lifted. Not only that, but Jack Del Rio made it a point to say that David Garrard was going to have to hold off Gabbert in training camp and the pre-season. Terry McDonough also said at Night With the Scouts that they didn't feel they drafted any developmental players, and that all five players would contribute in 2011.

Now, while it's entirely possible and probably likely Gabbert sees the field as a rookie, that doesn't mean Garrard has to be on the roster. In the Jaguars situation, it's not financially responsible to keep Garrard on the roster for his current $8 million salary. Now, it's possible Garrard could take a pay cut and restructure his deal, but it's have to be a massive cut and he'd need to swallow his pride. I'm not sure he'd do that over having the chance to be a full-time starter on another team without a Top 10 pick stoking a fire behind him on the depth chart. The Jaguars claim they're going to be aggressive and spend in free agency as well as needing to lock Marcedes Lewis up long term, and that would clear $8 million off their books.

I think the Jaguars are going to give Gabbert every chance possible, considering there's full training camp and pre-season, to take the job from Garrard. I don't even think Gabbert would necessarily need to completely outplay Garrard, either. More so he'd need to play at least close to Garrard. David Garrard's season ending stat line in 2010 looked good, but it's a bit misleading. While he threw for a franchise record 23 touchdowns, 13 of those touchdowns came in just 4 games and only 10 touchdowns in the remaining 10 games. It's just another example of the inconsistencies the team's experienced under him. Coupled with that, the Jaguars passing offense was amongst the worst in the NFL yardage wise and second to last in attempts. To be frank: The team relied on it's running game, not it's passing game. Inserting a rookie quarterback would keep that relatively the same.

As for keeping Garrard at his current salary, the logic for me boils down like this: Do you think you can compete for the Super Bowl in 2011 with David Garrard? If the answer is "no", there's realistically no legitimate reason to keep him on the roster, at cost. You're better off getting your young quarterback experience. If you don't want to play him right away, you can play Luke McCown for 2-5 games until he's up to speed for about $6 million less than Garrard, and I'm not convinced the drop in play is a $6 million difference between Garrard and McCown. If the plan is to seat Garrard after a few bad games or the season is "lost", that's a hefty place holder price.

Now, as far as the dirty political side of the situation... Blaine Gabbert offers Jack Del Rio a chance to sever ties with the player he hitched his wagon to in 2007 and 2008. Del Rio rolled the dice in 2007 and rolled 7's. He rolled them again in 2008 when he lobbied for David Garrard to get a big contract extension and came up craps. While Garrard certainly hasn't been terrible, he certainly hasn't lived up to the contract he was given. When a big-time contract like that is signed, expectations are set and I don't think he's met what most people thought.

Enter Blaine Gabbert.

If the Jaguars cut ties with David Garrard, it can breath an extra year of life into Jack Del Rio's time with the Jaguars. I get the general feeling that Wayne Weaver doesn't want to fire Jack Del Rio unless he absolutely has to. After being prodded by reporters back in January, Weaver hastily said if the team didn't make the playoffs in 2011 they'd likely have a new coaching staff. Roughly a month ago however, Weaver backed off those claims and said he simply wanted to "compete" for the playoffs. Now, my feeling is that if the Jaguars roll out with David Garrard to start the season and finish with 5-8 wins and miss the playoffs again... Jack Del Rio is likely fired. If they roll out with a rookie quarterback and finish with 5-8 wins and miss the playoffs again... Jack Del Rio is safe until the end of his contract, after the 2012 season.

Ultimately who starts at quarterback is up to Jack Del Rio. Starting Blaine Gabbert after a dog and pony show in camp and the pre-season gives Del Rio the chance to die another day. It's also a way for Gene Smith to firmly plant himself as one of the better general managers in the league if Gabbert is successful.

As you can see, this is more about the economics and politics of the situation than Gabbert or Garrard. I think it's a side that's woefully overlooked.