JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If Sunday was any measure, there are roughly the same number of Gus Bradley fans as Tim Tebow supporters in the vicinity.
Bradley, the Jacksonville Jaguars' first-year head coach, worked his way through a line of more than 300 people after Sunday's rookie minicamp practice smiling, shaking hands, signing autographs and taking pictures with anyone who asked.
As that was going on, a Tim Tebow fan, presumably from the Jacksonville area, posted a petition on President Obama's official website. The petition was asking that Obama demand that the Jaguars sign Tebow to make the fans in his hometown happy.
The petition was taken down after less than 400 people had signed. Fact is, first-year Jacksonville general manager David Caldwell made it clear a while ago that the Jaguars won't be signing the now-out-of-work Tebow. The Jacksonville quarterback job is already a battle that could ultimately end with no one winning the job beyond this season.
It doesn't need to become a circus as well.
Furthermore, guys like Teddy Bridgewater, Tajh Boyd, Derek Carr, David Fales and even Johnny Manziel have a much better chance of ending up in Jacksonville than Tebow.
While the Jaguars spend this season sorting through whether 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert can become the starter the previous regime hoped for, there is a bigger plan playing out within the organization.
The Jaguars are doing everything they can to solve the quarterback situation once and for all and, just as importantly, in a logical way. The weird moves of cutting passers like Byron Leftwich and David Garrard on the eve of the season are gone. The drafting of Gabbert when the team was dealing with a lame-duck coach (Jack Del Rio) is now a thing of the past.
"We're going to give everybody a fair chance to see who can win the job and whether that person is the long-term solution," Caldwell said as he surveyed practice.
A year from now, Gabbert and Chad Henne might not even be on the roster – that's how up in the air the Jaguars quarterback situation is. Caldwell is taking advantage of what many people have called a "scholarship" year for him to work on the team's roster without feeling the pressure to immediately add a quarterback.
Instead of grabbing passers Geno Smith or E.J. Manuel or even Matt Barkley, Jacksonville stood pat, content to see what might happen with Gabbert. Moreover, offensive tackle and No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel was brought in to give any quarterback more stability.
"Whether it's from the pocket or if we run some rollout stuff, we're going to find ways to give the quarterback more of a chance," Caldwell said. "And then we'll see how it goes."
At the same time, Caldwell is going to spend much of the season studying the likes of Bridgewater, Boyd and whoever else emerges as a candidate next year. Privately, the Jaguars were only too happy to see the Buffalo Bills (Manuel) and New York Jets (Smith) grab quarterbacks in the first two rounds of the draft. That likely takes both teams off the market for next year and leaves Jacksonville and Cleveland as the top likely teams in need.
Caldwell and Bradley, who said "a starter will emerge at some point in the process," aren't in a big hurry. To that end, neither seemed too bothered by the fact that second-year wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who was suspended for four games by the league last week for violation of the substance abuse policy, won't be available.
Sure, Blackmon's absence isn't a good thing. But neither is it the end of the world.
"Things happen – guys get hurt, they miss practice," Bradley said, his enthusiasm brimming even after 25 minutes of working the crowd. "We move on and see who is ready to perform, see who is going to step up and evaluate people on how they play.
"Are we going to put Justin out there more in training camp and the preseason because he's going to miss the first four games? That's something you would really do more with the offensive line and the quarterbacks. The receivers, you have a process of getting those guys ready. They're going to take a lot of reps either way."
What's also likely to happen is that the Jaguars will continue to struggle. Aside from the questions at quarterback and the ability to replace Blackmon, the Jaguars are going through transition on defense. The secondary, led by rookie Jonathan Cyprien, is likely to be a complete overhaul.
In other words, Bradley's enthusiasm is going to be vital as both the team and the fan base deal with what looks like another transitional year. That wasn't just evident with the fans on Sunday, but as he sprinted around during practice doling out plenty of "attaboys." After a meeting later on, Bradley worked the locker room, talking to his young players about how they did in practice.
In that way, the energy pours out of Bradley and the fans responded in kind.
"That's something that [Seattle Seahawks coach] Pete Carroll made me think about," Bradley said. "I used to watch him spend so much time after practice with the fans. I was always friendly with the fans, but I never really wanted to put myself out front like that.
"But then I talked to him and he said something that stuck with me. If you can make somebody happy for 10 seconds, why wouldn't you do it?"
Fair enough. As it is, short-term gratification of this type will have to suffice.
The Jaguars have a much longer vision.
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