David Garrard (Getty Images)
If you had one cliché to describe the Jaguars 2008 season, you could use “close, but no cigar.” The team played the first half of the season at 3-5, but all five losses were by one score or less. As the season progressed and more hope was lost, they went in a swoon and four consecutive games by double-digits for the first time in franchise history.
The play of the Jaguars is pretty consistent with the play of their quarterback David Garrard. Garrard has tantalizing physical skills, as he has a perfect release, one of the strongest arms in the league, and the ability to at times turn a mistake into a highlight reel play. Thursday’s 31-24 loss to Indianapolis was a perfect microcosm of the seductive killer that David Garrard is to the Jaguars.
Garrard began the game with pinpoint accuracy, as he completed 10 of his first 11 pass attempts for 103 yards, with the only incompletion stemming from a Marcedes Lewis drop. Garrard led the team to two methodical touchdown drives, and he looked more than deserving of his six-year, $60 million contract that the team quickly presented him after just one year as a starting quarterback.
“We did a great job,” Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said of the Jaguars offense early on. “I think we moved the ball and scored points.”
Garrard helped lead the Jaguars to a 17-7 halftime lead, but there were a few fortunate plays in which Colts defensive backs dropped would-be interceptions. Still, Garrard looked effective and nearly matched the great Peyton Manning throw for throw.
Then, the other Garrard showed up. The biggest issues with the Jaguars quarterback that has many believing that the team was certainly hasty to give Garrard a new deal was his decision making, need for a great running game to be effective, and deep ball accuracy. That once again reared its ugly head in the fourth period, when the Jaguars were outscored 17-0.
With the game tied at 24 with just under five minutes remaining, crunch time ensued. What occurred was a perfectly thrown David Garrard pass to Keiwan Ratliff that he turned into six points. Great news, right? Not for the Jaguars as Ratliff plays for Indianapolis. Garrard had another implosion that cost his team another game.
“You don’t want to put your team in that situation where you let the guy pick it off and run it back for a touchdown,” Garrard said. “They made a good play. It was actually man coverage and he made a smart play by dropping off Dennis (Northcutt). You never see that in man coverage so that was a smart play by him. They know we like the slant game on that down and distance and they watched tape. He just made a good play.”
Jaguars.com editor Vic Ketchman, one of the most respected writers in the NFL and staunch defender of David Garrard had this to say in his game-time blog—
“The game is in Garrard's hands. This is crunch time. This is when you measure a quarterback.”
Following the pick-six, Ketchman’s comments turned to what most Jaguars fans should have been thinking.
“That bothers me greatly. Crunch time is crunch time. There's no way to minimize it's importance. It means everything.”
Garrard’s questionable decision-making struck yet again on the ensuing possession as he took a 15-yard sack on a 3rd and 4 play near midfield instead of throwing the ball away. This has been a troubling theme for the Jaguars all year long as Garrard has taken 41 sacks this season, certainly not all of which have been the offensive line’s fault.
On the Jaguars final drive of the game, Garrard drove the team down the field from their own 10 yard line and put the team in position for a score as he took them to the Indianapolis six yard line. Garrard missed a wide-open Reggie Williams in the back of the end zone and then with 12 seconds remaining did the unthinkable. Garrard took a sack which ended the game.
“You can’t take a sack on the last play. It’s got to be thrown into end zone,” Del Rio said. “He made some great plays tonight. You’d like it to come out of his hand and it either be incomplete or score a touchdown. It just didn’t happen.”
Garrard did it to the Jaguars again. He played lights out for three quarters and then gave the game away. Although the Jaguars are financially committed to Garrard, he hasn’t proven that he can take the team on his back when opponents are selling out to stop the run and win a game with his arm. Garrard was handed the starting job this season without any competition and he was handed a truckload of money after being a solid game manager last season with the league’s second-ranked running game. It certainly appears that the Jaguars have made a $60 million mistake.
In the NFL, the only thing worse than making a mistake of that magnitude is refusing to admit that you made the mistake. We’ll see if the Jaguars are still in denial when free agency and the draft roll around in the next few months.