Blaine Gabbert has officially been damned with faint praise. (AP)
New Jacksonville Jaguars quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo recently made a statement that would have been heresy in 2012, but actually makes a bit of sense in 2013 -- and shows just how questionable the 2013 quarterback draft class really is. 23-year old Jags quarterback Blaine Gabbert is going into his third NFL season, but would have been in this rookie class had he redshirted and stayed for his senior year at Missouri. And according to Scelfo, Gabbert would have been the best quarterback in the 2013 draft order.
“If you graded him out right now, this is his draft class. If he were coming out and the quarterback draft class the way it is, would he be the top guy taken? I think the answer is yes," Scelfo told Jacksonville.com. “Ask the scouting departments and the general managers around the league and I think you would end up with a yes on that. Basically at his age, 23, the number-one pick in the draft with two years of experience already under his belt. That’s pretty good.’’
Such an argument would have been ridiculous in a draft featuring Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and a host of other potential NFL starters, but the fact that you have to stop and think whether Gabbert would pace the 2013 group is quite the indictment of a group of signal-callers with some pretty serious issues.
Yes, a guy who has completed 53.8 percent of his NFL passes and threw just 21 touchdown passes in 25 professional games might actually be a better long-term option than Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, and their fellow NFL prospects. Smith and Barkley, who each turned down invitations to play at the Senior Bowl, will throw at next week's scouting combine. The six QBs who did show up in Mobile, Ala. to display their talents were underwhelming for the most part. Gabbert, who threw 40 touchdowns and 18 picks in two years as Missouri's starter, showed enough to be thought of as a definite first-round prospect in his draft class. From a talent perspective as opposed to team need, few 2013 quarterbacks can say the same.
Gabbert suffered an elbow injury in November that eventually ended his 2012 season, and veteran Chad Henne performed pretty admirably in Gabbert's stead. Still, the Jags seem committed to Gabbert as their man. New head coach Gus Bradley is trying to reinforce the positive by putting together a reel of Gabbert's best plays, as opposed to the blooper reel one might see if one were to review, say, the team's 41-3 loss to the Chicago Bears in October, when Gabbert completed 17 of 33 passes for 142 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Gabbert's "best" game, at least from a quarterback rating perspective, came the next week against the Oakland Raiders, when he completed just eight of 12 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with a shoulder injury.
With all the questions, Bradley said that Gabbert will get every chance to succeed in the team's new administration. Former general manager Gene Smith, who selected Gabbert 10th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, was replaced by Dave Caldwell, and Bradley replaced Mike Mularkey as head coach after Mularkey led the Jags to a 2-14 record in 2012.
“That was his second year," Caldwell recently told Jacksonville.com about his quarterback's prospects. "What were they saying about other quarterbacks after their second year? We’re looking for improvement [in his third year]. We need to build around him. We’ll upgrade whenever we can upgrade.’’
The problem for Caldwell is that the NFL is now a league in which it doesn't pay to be patient at the quarterback position, especially a year after seven different rookies started for their teams in 2012, and many did surprisingly well. The other problem for Caldwell and his team is that the follow-up draft to the one that planted so many great young quarterbacks in the league presents no such easy answers.
More and more, teams with iffy quarterback situations might be tempted to stick with what they have, and try to work through it.
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