With all the talk in recent days about whether and to what extent Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb is (according to Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly) scared, it’s important to take a look at the guy who by all appearances needed a 12-step program to break the habit of making 12-step drops.
Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who some believe was destined to lose the job to free-agent arrival Chad Henne, has looked good in 2012. And Gabbert is developing the kind of edge that will serve him well throughout his career.
“I think that’s part of our job description: Deal with the crap,” Gabbert told Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports on day before completing 13 of 16 passes in a win at New Orleans. “But for people to say [I’m scared], I just don’t understand it. They’ve never played in the NFL. They really don’t know what goes on, or what happens.
“So that argument, I think, is just a copout for people to make because they’re — I don’t want to necessarily want to say jealous — but, they couldn’t do my job. And that’s the truth. They can’t do my job. There are 31 other guys that can do my job, and that’s it. And that’s kind of the way that the quarterbacks look at it. Selfishly, I think it’s the best job in the world, but that [requires] putting in an honest day’s work on a daily basis to keep it.”
Actually, more than 31 guys can do the job. But not nearly that many can do it well. And, last year, Gabbert definitely didn’t.
Of course, quarterbacks often get too much of the credit when things go well, and too much of the blame when they don’t. In 2011, the Jaguars were bad, and Gabbert got the brunt of the blame.
“He’s a young guy, and he walked into a nightmare situation,” linebacker Paul Posluszny told Silver. “He had all the negative things that anybody could have happen to him. I said, ‘Man, I feel bad for Blaine, because he’s a good kid and he’s doing everything the right way, but we’re not winning on the field. And, of course, he gets the blame for it.'”
Being called “scared” is perhaps the biggest insult that can be hurled at a football player at any level. It’s one thing for that label to be applied by another player. But when folks in the media who didn’t play in the NFL do it, it cuts even more deeply.
Former NFL defensive lineman Jeff Lageman, who now works as a broadcaster in Jacksonville, told Silver about a quarterback Lageman’s Jets faced in 1990. “We’d watched him look jittery on film and concluded he was scared, and on their first play all four of us [defensive linemen] intentionally jumped offsides and blasted him. He fumbled the next snap, and we kicked his butt all day,” Lageman said.
The quarterback was Troy Aikman.
“At that moment, if you’d have told me he was going to be a Hall of Famer, I’d have said you were completely insane,” Lageman said.
So let’s not go completely insane by presuming Gabbert is a bust based on a rookie season in which he had no offseason program and not much of a team around him. The fact that Cam Newton and Andy Dalton played so well makes Gabbert’s gaffes more glaring. But guys can get better, even though the modern game gives them less time to figure it out before they get thrown out the door.
Indeed, if Terry Bradshaw were held to today’s standards, Bradshaw would have been back in Shreveport long before the light ever went on. Even if Gabbert breaks out in his third year, he’ll be ahead of some of the game’s all-time greats.