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4.28.2012

In Blaine Gabbert We Trust

I'm damned tired of all the criticism being thrown at Blaine Gabbert. It seems pretty fashionable for people in the national media to pile on the Jacksonville Jaguars these days. This poor idiot (Jerry Lai) couldn't even write about Jacksonville's shrewd maneuver to select Justin Blackmon without spouting the usual tired rhetoric about our attendance at the stadium (never mind that, even with the tarps on the seats, our stadium is among the largest in the league while our population ranks thirty-first among thirty-two markets).

Hey, Jerry Lai! Have you ever set foot inside Everbank? Have you ever even been to Jacksonville? We haven't had a television blackout in over two years. The Dolphins, Bengals, Chargers, Raiders and Bucs sure can't say that.

And then you have Mike Lombardi, a failed former personnel guy trading on the capital of a famous last name, who blasted Blaine Gabbert and then penned an open letter to him outlining a basis for his comments.

Here's a little context on Blaine Gabbert, and why I believe he's the player that will lead the Jaguars to the promised land in the next few years. 

Blaine was the youngest quarterback in the league. He was tossed into the fire after a truncated training camp. Jack Del Rio had no clue what he was doing at the end of his tenure here. He released David Garrard (you can't tell me that wasn't a financial decision and not a football one) and then went to Luke McCown. Then, he panicked when Luke laid that egg against the Jets. Enter the savior, who came into the situation with a shaky offensive line and a suspect receiving corps. Look, Blaine shouldn't have even been playing last year. 

Period. 

David should have started the season (and I believe he would have, too, balky lower back and all) and Blaine should have been watching and learning. This should have been Blaine's first full camp. I'm not making excuses for him, but that's how I feel. He wasn't drafted to play fourteen games in his rookie season. This leads me to my next source of frustration, which is his play on the field.

Blaine has been called soft. He's been called skittish. Folks have said he flinches.

Um, it's the National Football League.

Tom Brady flinches. Brett Favre flinches. Mark Sanchez flinches.

Blaine struggled in the Cleveland game. That was the one game where I can say it looked like he was feeling phantom pressure. But, as the season progressed, he hung in there. You can see it if you watch the games. He took the shots, and he delivered a few as well. Blaine can move, and he's a load to bring down. He took a blow to the ribs on a first-down run earlier in the year, popped right back up and hung in there.

Blaine's a tough guy. He played through a broken toe on his plant foot last year. And tell me, which other quarterback is going to cuss out a linebacker like Cushing?

He made some great throws. Watch him read the coverage, step up in the pocket and zing this one. That throw he made to West in the Atlanta game was great, and so was that toss to Mike Thomas before the half in that sloppy game at Carolina.

I watched every throw he made, and there were some pretty dreadful ones, but not nearly as many as some of these football writers are saying. In fact, I counted five dropped touchdowns. Five! How much better do those stats look, Lombardi, if he's 17 touchdowns versus 11 picks (and I flat out disagree with your use of passer rating as the measuring stick in that comparison)? 

Let's look at that number. 11 picks. Peyton Manning had 28 in his rookie year. Why? Because he had the freedom to throw it around. Sorry, but under Koetter and Del Rio, Blaine didn't get that chance. His rookie numbers are bad, but so was that offensive scheme. So were the players around him. I sat twenty-five feet from Marcedes Lewis in the south end zone when he dropped an easy Gabbert touchdown in the Houston game. Every quarterback has drops, but Blaine lost five touchdowns and he never threw anybody under the bus. The guys he was throwing to were so bad that probably only Thomas will be here next year. 

Pete Prisco says that Blaine has been putting in the work. He says that Blaine has been down at the stadium, watching film and working on the things in his mechanics that will make him a better pocket passer.

That gives me a lot of confidence, but you know what else does? Blaine's the best athlete in the league at the quarterback position. As the old saying goes, you can't teach 6'4" and 233 pounds. He's got a strong enough arm to make every throw, and he runs like a deer. In that way, he reminds me of Aaron Rodgers.

The big difference there is that Rodgers had three years of time sitting behind Favre to adjust to NFL defenses.

Get the hell off of Blaine. He'll be fine. If he didn't care, I'd be worried, but he does care. That desire will push him toward a major step forward as an NFL quarterback in 2012.

And it doesn't hurt that he gets his first legitimate stud wideout to play pitch-and-catch with, either. If our line comes together and Rashad Jennings comes back healthy, Marcedes has a bounce-back year and MJD keeps running like a man possessed, this offense can put up points. I like the addition of Robinson, and Mike Thomas is really effective in the slot.

But it all comes down to our quarterback, and that makes me feel confident. I like where Blaine is going, and if you watched Jaguars football, you would feel the same damned way...

 

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