Why would the Jaguars give up on Gabbert now?

Arthur Arkush
Why would the Jaguars give up on Gabbert now?

The Jaguars' new QB coach, Frank Scelfo, thinks Blaine Gabbert would be the top-rated QB in this year’s draft class, which would have been Gabbert’s if he redshirted as a freshman and stayed all five years at Mizzou.

That very well may be true, but does Scelfo not realize Gabbert was ranked by many as the top-rated signalcaller in his draft class, in 2011?

I think Scelfo is taking the right tact; after all, what is he supposed to say? Gabbert stinks and we’re doomed until we find our QB of the future?

It’s easy to forget that the third-year Jaguars QB is merely 23 years old. No, there haven’t been enough — OK; any, really — signs that he has what it takes to become a franchise QB.

Yet, he is heading into his third offseason under a third new coordinator.

It wasn’t until the second half of his second season when real, actual receiving threats began to emerge.

The Jaguars have one, maybe two, starters along the offensive line that would qualify as keepers on most other NFL pass-blocking units.

Sound like I’m Gabbert apologist No. 1? (Disclaimer: I’m a Mizzou grad.)

The truth is that I’m not apologizing for Gabbert at all. I think he should and needs to be further along after almost two full seasons in the NFL.

I’m simply pointing out that it is still much too soon to write him off as a bust. There have been other late bloomers.

Troy Aikman was absolutely abysmal in his first two seasons with the Cowboys, but he went on to have himself a nice little career. Remember Steve Young’s career start in Tampa Bay? If not, it’s probably because it was totally forgettable.

Mike Mularkey is no longer in Jacksonville because Dave Caldwell wanted his own guy, Gus Bradley. Caldwell and Bradley will also want their own guy at the QB position (Mularkey wasn’t afforded that luxury) — unless they can develop Gabbert, unlike Mularkey or Jack Del Rio and their staffs.

Which is why the book on Gabbert shouldn’t be closed just yet.

Just the opposite, in fact.

Gabbert could not be more fortunate that this year’s draft crop of rookie passers is as underwhelming as it is. Ditto the free-agent market. There is not a plug-and-play starter likely to be a marked upgrade over the incumbent.

It might just be the biggest break he’s gotten during his short NFL career.

Of course, all that matters is what he makes of it.

His enviable size and strong arm are still there. His good athleticism and smarts haven’t disappeared, either.

Some of the biggest issues that need to be corrected with Gabbert — and there are plenty — are on the intangible side.

Maybe you’ve heard by now that Gabbert often looks like a deer in headlights when the pocket begins to crumble (heck, it’s actually well before that). Former NFL head coach and current “Monday Night Football” analyst Jon Gruden thinks it might not be correctable.

What about Gabbert’s leadership skills? How many teammates have you heard going to bat for their embattled QB? Not many, I’m guessing.

That is the troubling part. As much as there is to dislike about his mechanics and pocket presence, there is as much to dislike about some of the other innate qualities all of the great QBs have.

Also troubling is that I don’t think Bradley’s staff is nearly as accomplished or experienced in developing young QBs as the first two that Gabbert studied under. Dirk Koetter blossomed in Atlanta last season. The Raiders thought enough of Greg Olson despite last season’s 2-14 dumpster fire to give him a promotion.

Scelfo’s point on Gabbert likely being the first QB drafted in this class doesn’t make a lot of sense to me; in fact, I think it misses the point completely. But I think the new coaching staff’s other comments and actions about Gabbert have been spot on.

The Jaguars aren’t going to the playoffs in 2013. They might as well make the No. 1 focus finding out — once and for all — if the solution to their biggest problem might still possibly be right under their nose.

It’s not like they have much choice.