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Tuesday, May 3, 2011
On the Jaguars developing Blaine Gabbert

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

In a piece on the best and worst marriages from early draft picks, Jeff Chadiha rates the Jaguars and quarterback Blaine Gabbert as a potentially bad one.
This isn't a knock on Gabbert's skills, since he was widely considered the safest quarterback prospect in this class. It is a shot at the Jaguars and their ability to develop quarterbacks during the Jack Del Rio era. Byron Leftwich didn't work out. David Garrard isn't the answer he seemed to be a few years ago.

Now we're supposed to believe that Gabbert has a chance to grow into a strong player in that regime? It's great for him if it happens, but don't be surprised if things go south while Del Rio remains on the job.

That prompted a note to my mailbag from Kevin in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
"First with Leftwich. Since he has left the Jaguars he has not been able to find a starting job so maybe he just isn’t that good. Then with Garrard, since when was he a highly touted QB coming out of college? He was a fourth round pick who has developed into a solid starting QB. So couldn’t the argument be made that the Jaguars have MAXIMIZED Garrard's potential? They turned a 4th rd pick into a QB who has led a team to the playoffs and won a game. I am no way saying Garrard is great but I feel Jeff Chadiha's column is completely unfair to the Jaguar coaches and short sighted. Obviously with Gabbert we will find out for sure but I have some issues with what he wrote."

I think Kevin raises some good points about Leftwich and Garrard. And they are really the only two quarterbacks the team has tried to turn into franchise guys since Del Rio took over in 2003. We can all name some other teams that have failed on a larger scale in that time frame.

And the coaches most responsible for developing Gabbert, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and quarterback coach Mike Sheppard, are in their fifth and first years with the team, respectively. Whether or not they can turn Gabbert into a great player has little to do with what the franchise has done at the position previously.

The most interesting Del Rio-Gabbert storyline to me isn’t about the Jaguars' history of developing or not developing quarterbacks. Owner Wayne Weaver has said the Jaguars need to go to the playoffs this year or there will be big changes.

So there is going to be a potential tug of war between winning now in order for Del Rio to keep his job and doing the right long-term thing in order to allow Gabbert to develop at the proper pace.

Those situations can get complicated. That's one big thing we'll be monitoring.