Playing the ‘what if’ game is always fun. Maybe it’s not productive, but it’s entertaining none the less.
So this week, after the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense sputtered and stalled for the fourth consecutive week in a 30-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, it seems fitting to ask this: What if David Garrard was still the Jaguars’ quarterback?
Well, the Jaguars are probably not standing at 1-4 with Garrard at the helm.
It’s purely a hypothetical question that’s near impossible to answer accurately, but the point of this exercise is to demonstrate what the Jaguars could do with average (Garrard epitomized what it means to be average) quarterback play.
Let’s make this clear before going forward: Blaine Gabbert has shown a ton of potential as a rookie and he is undoubtedly the face of the future for the franchise.
With that being said, the offense has struggled under the first-round draft pick this season. It’s the league’s worst offense, averaging 270 yards per game.
A lot of it isn’t his fault. There’s been little continuity along an injury-ravaged offensive line and the team’s wide receivers have been worse than mundane. But all of those problems become more prominent with a young quarterback who doesn’t have a full command of the offense.
If Garrard, 33, where the Jaguars’ quarterback, a lot of the team’s problems would be alleviated. An unconfident group of offensive players would at least have a proven player to rally around. Proven is used loosely, as Garrard had a pension for choking in big moments, but he also made big plays when things were going well.
Under Gabbert—who has completed 49 percent of his passes and is 0-3 in three starts—the Jaguars haven’t been able to capitalize on any of the spectacular plays Gabbert or running back Maurice Jones-Drew have made this year. Drives just stall.
A lot of that, as mentioned before, isn’t Gabbert’s fault. He’s a quarterback who depends on the paly of his wide receivers. That’s not a crime, but when your wide receivers can’t get open, it creates a problem. And when wide outs have gotten open this year, Gabbert has gotten anxious and has overthrown them too many times. Granted, Luke McCown was no better than Gabbert and most quarterbacks wouldn’t thrive in this situation.
Garrard on the other hand didn’t really use receivers that often unless they were running slant patterns. It’s the reason why fans loathed him, but it also made Jones-Drew and tight end Marcedes Lewis excellent options. It seems that ‘Captain Check Down’s’ biggest weaknesses was this offense’s greatest strength.
His mobility made up for erratic decision making and kept defenses off balance. For better or worse, Garrard’s play got the offense to a level where it could play .500 football. Right now, basically the same offense (minus Mike Sims-Walker at receiver) is playing .200 football.
And the kicker is that the defense is significantly better than last year’s bottom-dweller D. Last season’s Garrard-led team didn’t have the advantage of a good defensive unit. If it did, the Jaguars would have likely made the playoffs.
In close games against Cincinnati or Carolina were the Jaguars only needed one more score or one long drive to win, Garrard’s presence would have made a difference and the Jaguars could be looking at a 3-2 record in a winnable AFC South division.
But, in the immortal words of UCF head coach George O’Leary, ‘if if’s and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.’ The point being, it’s fun to think about what if, but the Jaguars can’t go back and change their decision to release an unmotivated yet strangely effective David Garrard.
Heck maybe they don’t even want to. At least Gabbert is taking his lumps now and presumably won’t he wide-eyed when he starts full-time next year with what should be an improved offense. The Jaguars will likely have a high draft pick and it makes since that they’d take a receiver with the pick.
Plus there’s nothing worse than being average in the NFL. Better to stink one season and draft an impact player rather than be average for a few years and take above average players in the first round. Presumably, the Jaguars would have been maybe 9-7 with Garrard, but plenty of fans would be dreaming of that right now.
Maybe that’s just justification. And maybe the Jaguars wouldn’t be any better with Garrard, Jaguars 101 certainly didn’t think so at the beginning of the preseason. But after five straight games of watching the NFL’s worst offense, you can’t help but wonder ‘what if.’Tags: Blaine Gabbert, David Garrard, Football, Jacksonville, Jacksonville Jaguars, Maurice-Jones Drew, NFL