No Quick Fix in Jacksonville

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By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor

Last Tuesday, Jacksonville Jaguar quarterback David Garrard did his part to attend a team-sponsored luncheon with fans to drum up support and sell season tickets.  Just two hours later, he was released from the team.

How’s that again?  They released him from the team?

Sorry, but I’m very confused about this.  Instead of Garrard, the Jags are going with back up Luke McNown.

That’s right, I didn’t say Cade McNown.  At least Cade McNown had some name recognition, despite his lack of success and consistency on the field.

And even that isn’t very memorable.  Luke McNown is the brother of former Arizona Cardinals QB Cade McNown, who was a fill in and eventual starter for the Cardinals from 2002 to 2005.

Cade McNown’s only real claim to fame was being the last Cardinal quarterback before Kurt Warner took over for good in 2006.  So he’s only known indirectly.  But we’re getting off track here.

The latest media reports out of Jacksonville paint the picture of Garrard as being a quarterback who just couldn’t take himself or his team to that next level.  

Head coach Jack Del Rio said as much near the end of last year, but remained faithful in his commitment to Garrard as the starter.  Del Rio kept that faith throughout the preseason.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Del Rio said that he and Garrard had conversations about his inconsistencies throughout training camp.

“I had met with him a couple weeks ago and brought him in and said, ‘Hey, listen, you’re my guy.  I need you to get it going.’  He was given every opportunity,” Del Rio said.  “He was somewhat apologetic that he wasn’t able to deliver.”

So we decided to go against everything we knew about football and make a decision that was in conflict with our experience in the game.  That’s not how that quote ended, but it’s how it should have.

David Garrard isn’t Tom Brady, and he isn’t Payton Manning.  Heck, he’s not even Jay Cutler.  But at the same time he is the Jacksonville Jaguars.

I mean that in a different sense than how Brett Favre was the Green Bay Packers.  Green Bay had an identity before Favre and they have one after.

Yet at the time, Brett Favre was the Green Bay Packers.  It had been so long since the Packers won that Favre was immediately given the reins to the franchise.

In Jacksonville there are no reigns, there is no history.  The story of the Jaguars is of journeymen quarterbacks who overachieved.

Mark Brunell never really had a home, but found success in Jacksonville when he and the Jags shocked the defending Super Bowl Champion Broncos in the  1999 playoffs.  After Brunell, Byron Leftwich started to put Jacksonville on the map but couldn’t stay healthy long enough to fulfill his promise.

Garrard was eventually given his chance at starter and led the Jags to an 11-5 record and a first round playoff win over the Steelers in 2007.  Over the next three seasons the best Jacksonville did was 8-8 in 2010.

Yet, in that time Garrard also went to a Pro Bowl and was signed to a six-year contract worth $60 million.  His season and career stats don’t put him near the top of NFL quarterbacks, but they do put him in the middle.  If anything, he wasn’t great but he was serviceable.

But let’s take this in context of what’s going on in Jacksonville.  Team owner Wayne Weaver has said that Del Rio and the Jags need to make the playoffs in order for Del Rio to keep his job.

If that’s the case then who is making the decisions about which quarterback is going to be under center on Sunday?  You have to think that a football guy like Del Rio had little if any say in what happened last week.

The NFL is great because year to year we get teams that come out of nowhere to make a playoff run or play in the Super Bowl.  Last year’s Green Bay Packers are a decent example, but think back to the Arizona Cardinals in 2008, the Carolina Panthers in 2004 or the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005.

None were expected to make any noise during the season.  Not only did they all reach the Super Bowl (the Steelers won) but they also had to play most of their playoff games on the road.

Since all of that has happened, it seems that a lot of the NFL has fallen into the quick fix mentality: “Sure we were awful last year, but we’re that close to playing in a Super Bowl.”

No you’re not.  The Packers have Aaron Rodgers, the Cardinals had Kurt Warner, the Panthers had a Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad at the top of their games and the Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger.

Now the Jaguars have….Luke McNown.  This all smells like an owner buying into the quick fix and making the decisions for his head coach.

You need excellent quarterback play to matter in the first place, especially if you want to make and compete in the playoffs.  Luke McNown is not that guy.

I have a hard time believing that a commitment to Luke McNown is a commitment to the future.  You might believe that David Garrard is unable to get you to the Super Bowl.  And that’s fine.

But he’s not even option number two?  A guy who’s thrown for over 16,000 yards and 89 touchdowns is a worse option that McNown and rookie Blaine Gabbert?

Wake up Jacksonville, you have no quick fix.

 

For the record: In the Sept. 13 issue of “The Gateway,” I incorrectly printed that current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Luke McCown was the brother of former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Cade McNown.  Luke McCown’s actual brother and the correct quarterback in Arizona from 2002 to 2005 is Josh McCown, not Cade.  Luke’s name was also spelled McNown instead of the correct McCown.  The Gateway apologizes for this error.

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