sistaff
Wednesday September 21st, 2011

Blaien Gabbert was 5 of 6 for 52 yards filling in for Luke McCown last Sunday. (Cal Sport Media)

You have to figure this was Jacksonville's plan all along.

When the Jaguars unceremoniously cut David Garrard just a few days before the regular season started and named Luke McCown their starting QB, it seemed obvious that, sooner rather than later, rookie Blaine Gabbert would take over the job.

That day has come, with Jacksonville sitting 1-1 after a filthy 32-3 loss to the Jets Sunday.

This looks like a perfect spot to give Gabbert his first NFL start -- at Carolina, against a mediocre Panthers defense and matched up with overall No. 1 pick Cam Newton. It's pretty win-win for Gabbert: Either he loses in his first NFL start, on the road against a QB picked higher than him in April, or he knocks off Newton, who's looked like a near-lock for Offensive Rookie of the Year thus far.

McCown's effort in New York no doubt sealed the deal on this decision. Facing a tough Jets defense, McCown completed just six passes, threw four interceptions and put together one of the worst days you'll see a starting quarterback have.

But he also played OK in Week 1 against Tennessee, at least mistake-free enough for the Jags to pull off a 16-14 win. Even with McCown's Week 2 implosion, if Jacksonville wanted him in at quarterback, he'd get another chance in a very winnable Week 3 game.

Instead, Gabbert's being dropped into this hand-picked situation.

The Jaguars' decision to send Garrard packing before Week 1 helped the team financially but also signaled a desire to look toward the future. As much as Jacksonville tried to spin it, McCown was never going to be the guy leading this team into that new era.

Jacksonville drafted Gabbert to pull that duty. After that it was simply a matter of making sure the ex-Missouri star was ready, and finding the right spot to unleash him. The Jaguars circled Week 3 on the calendar. Given how this all played out, barring an unexpected McCown breakthrough in Weeks 1 and 2, this is precisely what Jacksonville had in mind.

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