Gabbert's steps forward too incremental

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
2:16
PM ET
I’m not in Jacksonville and was not a part of today’s media Q&A with coach Mike Mularkey.

Some of the primary reporters there -- Ryan O’Halloran, Gene Frenette and Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union, Mark Long of AP, John Oehser of the team’s web site -- all tweeted that Mularkey said Blaine Gabbert has made progress in the time the coach has been with the quarterback.

And Mularkey sees "a real serious attempt to grow at that position" by Gabbert.

That’s great.

But the NFL isn’t about players progressing as much as it is about the pace of players progressing, particularly if those players are quarterbacks, high drafts picks or centerpieces. Gabbert is, of course all three.

Last year Gabbert completed 50.8 percent of his passes, averaged 5.36 yards per attempt and threw 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 65.4 passer rating playing with poor protection and insufficient receiver play.

This year Gabbert’s completing 58.0 percent of his passes, averaging 5.93 yards per attempt and has thrown nine touchdowns and six interceptions with a 76.9 rating playing with poor protection and insufficient receiver play.

Statistically, there it is -- modest improvement to support what Mularkey is saying.

But the Jaguars need more. They need impact, and not in small increments.

It’s on Gabbert, first and foremost. It’s general manager Gene Smith, in part, for his failure to fix the protection and receiver issues. And it’s Mularkey and his staff, for their failure to prompt a bigger jump from the quarterback.

But it’s Gabbert first and foremost. A good quarterback makes players around him better. Who’s Gabbert made better?

People who still admit to being fans of this team had high hopes that Mularkey, offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and quarterback coach Greg Olson were going to add some rocket fuel to Gabbert, and accelerate his pace of progress.

Good rookies sometimes face a sophomore slump. Bad ones often have a Year 2 jump.

Gabbert was a bad rookie. I expected a second-year jump to average and said if he got there the Jaguars could contend for second place in the division. (Bad miss by me.) Mularkey’s talk of progress is not of a jump, but baby steps.

He did, at least offer, that on deep passes Gabbert needs to take more chances and “let it go.” The offense seems to be built, and stocked, in a way that makes him disinclined to do so.

My follow-up to Mularkey about progress would have been about how much. And if he could possibly judge it as enough.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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