With Tuesday’s stunning news that the Jaguars have released starting quarterback David Garrard, coach Jack Del Rio has taken a page out of his own playbook, almost exactly four years later.
In 2007, on the last business day before the start of the three-day Labor Day weekend, Del Rio dumped Byron Leftwich and elevated Garrard. The move came at a time when Del Rio widely was believed to be on a playoffs-or-else mandate.
The gamble worked, and Del Rio scored a long-term extension, the buyout associated with which arguably has saved his job after multiple disappointing seasons since then.
Now, with the heat on Del Rio again and the AFC South up for grabs, Del Rio has pushed his chips, his car keys, his wallet, and his whistle into the middle of the table, releasing Garrard on the first business day after the unofficial end of summer.
Per Jay Glazer of FOX, the job now falls to Luke McCown. Presumably, Del Rio eventually will give the ball to rookie Blaine Gabbert, if/when McCown struggles and/or Gabbert is ready.
The impact of the move on the locker room could be significant. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew told Adam Schein and Rich Gannon of SiriusXM NFL Raio after Gabbert arrived that “David’s our guy and he’s always going to be our guy. . . . I mean, since I’ve been there that’s all I know and that’s who I played with from the beginning. When I was a backup and he was the backup we played together, we have a bond. So I know David will fight through it. It’s going to be tough at first. It’s always tough when they draft at your position but David’s a strong guy, strong minded. He’ll be able to go out there, fight through it and we’ll win games.”
The Jags may win games, but they’ll do it without Garrard.
Garrard immediately becomes a free agent, and teams with needs at the quarterback position would be wise to consider his services. By dumping him so close to the start of the season, however, the Jaguars have made it hard for Garrard to have a meaningful opportunity to start.
Look for the 49ers, who recently cut Luke McCown’s brother, Josh, to consider pursuing Garrard. Ditto for the Dolphins, who have been forced to settle for Chad Henne. Other potential destinations include the Bills, Steelers (where he’d replace Leftwich again), Colts (if they think Garrard is better than Kerry Collins), Chiefs (where Matt Cassel is dinged up and the cupboard is bare behind him), Redskins (for obvious reasons), and Seahawks (ditto).
And then there are the Eagles, who may sign Garrard just to show the rest of us that they can.